A study looking at HPV self testing for women who haven’t been for cervical screening

Cancer type:

Cervical cancer





This study was to see if women who haven’t been for cervical screening will take another type of test that they can do themselves. Women were offered the self test by their GP when they saw them for other reasons. 

Cancer Research UK supported this trial.

More about this trial

Cervical cancer screening is usually done by a nurse or a doctor. They put an instrument called a speculum Open a glossary item inside your vagina. Then, scrap the cervix with a small soft brush to take a small sample of cells from the surface. 

Women who are not regularly screened, have a higher risk of developing cervical cancer.

But, some women are reluctant to have this test. They might find it:

  • uncomfortable
  • embarrassing
  • difficult to make an appointment   

In this study, researchers wanted to find out if women who have not been for screening (or who are overdue for screening) are willing to take a test, which they can do themselves. The test was offered by their GP when they saw them for other reasons. This test is for the human papilloma virus (HPV)

HPV is a common virus that can cause changes to cells in the cervix that may develop into cancer.   

Researchers also wanted to see if women who test positive in the HPV test would come for follow up tests.

Summary of results

The study team concluded that women are happy to accept a self test kit from their GP’s. And that this might be a good way for women who don’t attend routine screening for cervical cancer to be tested.  

In this study, 652 women who were overdue cervical screening by at least 6 months were offered a self screening kit by their GP. The kit included instructions and a swab (like a long cotton bud). Women could complete the test at their GPs or do it at home and return the swab in a pre-paid envelope. 

Out of the 652 women offered a kit:

  • 443 accepted the test 
  • 292 returned their samples

The research team looked at the completed tests. They found that: 

  • 39 out of 292 women (around 13%) tested positive for HPV 
  • 247 out of 292 women (around 86%) tested negative for HPV 

6 samples could not be tested as there was not enough DNA Open a glossary item in the sample. These women were sent another test. 

The women who tested positive for HPV were invited to have further tests. This was either a cervical screening test or a colposcopy Open a glossary item

33 out of the 39 women went on to have further tests and 2 were diagnosed with cervical cancer. 
The research team think that women who are overdue their cervical screening, are willing to be screened using a test they can do themselves. And this helps to increase the number of women having some type of cervical screening.  

But a large study is needed: 

  • to confirm these results
  • to find out the best way of offering self sampling 
  • to look at whether this type of test would be cost effective to introduce

We have based this summary on information from the research team. The information they sent us has been reviewed by independent specialists (peer reviewed Open a glossary item) and published in a medical journal. The figures we quote above were provided by the trial team who did the research. We have not analysed the data ourselves.

Recruitment start:

Recruitment end:

How to join a clinical trial

Please note: In order to join a trial you will need to discuss it with your doctor, unless otherwise specified.

Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Chief Investigator

Professor Peter Sasieni

Supported by

Cancer Research UK
NIHR Primary Care Research Network
Queen Mary University of London

Questions about cancer? Contact our information nurses

Freephone 0808 800 4040

Last review date

CRUK internal database number:


Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Cara took part in a clinical trial

A picture of Cara

"I am glad that taking part in a trial might help others on their own cancer journey.”

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