HPV self-sampling in Japanese women: A feasibility study in a population with limited experience of tampon use

J Med Screen. 2016 Sep;23(3):164-70. doi: 10.1177/0969141315625702. Epub 2016 Feb 25.


Objectives: Cervical cancer incidence and mortality is increasing in Japanese women under age 50. Screening uptake is low and proactive recommendations for human papillomavirus vaccination have been suspended. Other cervical cancer prevention initiatives are urgently needed. We assessed whether human papillomavirus self-sampling might be an acceptable alternative to physician-led screening, particularly in women with limited experience of tampon use. We also sought to identify any practical, logistical, or safety issues in women already attending for screening, before carrying out further large-scale studies in non-responders.

Methods: In total, 203 women aged 20-49 attending their annual workplace healthcheck in Sapporo, northern Japan, performed unsupervised human papillomavirus self-sampling before undergoing a physician-led cervical smear and human papillomavirus test, and completing a measure of acceptability for both tests.

Results: Ninety per cent of participants stated they would use self-sampling again. They found instructions easy to follow and reported no issues with the usability of the self-sampling device. Compared with physician-led testing, women found self-sampling significantly less painful, less embarrassing and could relax more (p < 0.001), regardless of history of tampon use, which was associated with negative experiences in physician sampling (p = 0.034). Women lacked confidence the test had been performed correctly, despite no unsatisfactory samples. No safety issues were reported.

Conclusions: Self-sampling was highly acceptable in this population of women. They could perform the test safely unsupervised, but lacked confidence the test has been carried out correctly. Japanese women need to be educated about the accuracy of human papillomavirus self-sampling and further large-scale studies are necessary in non-responders.

Keywords: Cervical cancer; acceptability; human papillomavirus self-sampling; screening; tampon use.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Japan
  • Middle Aged
  • Papanicolaou Test / methods*
  • Papillomaviridae
  • Papillomavirus Infections / diagnosis*
  • Papillomavirus Infections / pathology
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care*
  • Self Care
  • Specimen Handling*
  • Uterine Cervical Dysplasia / diagnosis*
  • Uterine Cervical Dysplasia / pathology
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / pathology
  • Young Adult