What is HPV?
Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted disease and is spread skin-to-skin. There are more than 100 different types of HPV, of which 14 have been found to be oncogenic (cancer causing). While most HPV infections are transient and are able to be cleared by the body without intervention, those infections that persist can go on to cause cancer. HPV is responsible for nearly all cases of cervical cancer as well as many other cancers including anal, penile, vulvar, vaginal, and throat cancers. Cervical cancer is a highly preventable and treatable disease. However, largely due to inadequate screening, cervical cancer remains the third most common and the fourth deadliest cancer in the world for women (Ferlay 2010).
How is self-sampling different than a physician conducted screening?
Physician directed sampling is performed during a Pap smear and collects cells from the cervix. This requires an appointment with your healthcare provider and a speculum exam. Self-sampling is performed by patients themselves and collects cells from the vagina. This does not require a speculum exam by your healthcare provider and could be done at home using a self-sampling kit.
What are the self-sampling kits like?
There are two kinds of self-sampling kits that can be used to provide either a urine or vaginal sample to test for HPV. Urine samples can be collected by either peeing into a standard urine cup or peeing into a specially designed funnel that diverts the urine into a tube. Vaginal samples can be collected with devices that insert and remove a swab from the vagina much like a tampon with an applicator.