Background: In Italy, cervical cancer screening programmes actively invite women aged 25-64 years. Programmes are hindered by low participation.
Methods: A sample of non-responder women aged 35-64 years, belonging to three different programmes (in Rome, Florence and Teramo), was randomly split into four arms: two control groups received standard recall letters to perform either Pap-test (first group) or human papillomavirus (HPV) test (second group) at the clinic. A third arm was sent letters offering a self-sampler for HPV testing, to be requested by phone, whereas a fourth group was directly sent the self-samplers home.
Results: Compliance with standard recall was 13.9% (N619). Offering HPV test at the clinic had a nonsignificant effect on compliance (N616, relative risk (RR)=1.08; 95% CI=0.82-1.41). Self-sampler at request had the poorest performance, 8.7% (N622, RR=0.62; 95% CI=0.45-0.86), whereas direct mailing of the self-sampler registered the highest compliance: 19.6% (N616, RR=1.41; 95% CI=1.10-1.82). This effect on compliance was observed only in urban areas, Florence and Rome (N438, RR=1.69; 95% CI=1.24-2.30), but not in Abruzzo (N178, RR=0.95; 95% CI=0.61-1.50), a prevalently rural area.
Conclusions: Mailing self-samplers to non-responders may increase compliance as compared with delivering standard recall letters. Nevertheless, effectiveness is context specific and the strategy costs should be carefully considered.