Background: To investigate the role of self-sampling for human papillomavirus (HPV) testing as an alternative to cervical cancer screening by clinicians (i.e., Papanicolaou [Pap] test).
Methods: A systematic search of MEDLINE, EMBASE, Cochrane Library, and other sources for evidence related to the efficacy and feasibility of HPV DNA self-collection.
Results: A total of 25 studies were identified. In 22 comparisons across 19 studies, the concordance between samples collected by patients and those obtained by clinicians was reasonably high in the majority of cases. Women in many countries across wide age ranges were successful in collecting samples for HPV DNA testing. In four studies, the quality of the cytology from patient samples was as good as clinician samples, with more than 95% of samples yielding HPV DNA results. The studies that examined acceptability found that women were generally very positive about collecting their own samples, although some concerns were noted. No study evaluated the effect of HPV DNA self-sampling on screening participation rates, early detection, survival, or quality of life.
Conclusions: Self-sampling for HPV DNA testing is a viable screening option, but there is insufficient evidence to conclude that self-sampling for HPV DNA testing is an alternative to the Pap test. Although HPV DNA testing using self-collected samples holds promise for use in under-resourced areas or for women who are reluctant to participate in Pap testing programs, the evidence supporting it is limited. Further definitive research is needed to provide a solid evidence base to inform the use of self-sampling for HPV DNA testing for the purpose of increasing screening rates, especially in women who are never or seldom screened.