Preference for Human Papillomavirus Self-Collection and Papanicolaou: Survey of Underscreened Women in North Carolina

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Abstract

Objectives

Self-collection of samples for human papillomavirus (HPV) testing (self-collection) has the potential to increase cervical cancer screening among underscreened women. We assessed attitudes toward at-home HPV self-collection compared with clinic-based Pap testing in this higher-risk population.

Materials and Methods

Participants were low-income women in North Carolina overdue for cervical cancer screening. Women self-collected samples at home, returned samples by mail for HPV testing, and completed phone questionnaires about at-home HPV self-collection. Participants were referred to clinic-based Pap testing and invited to complete a second questionnaire about Pap testing. A cross-sectional questionnaire compared attitudes, experiences, and preferences for self-collection versus Pap testing and assessed predictors of preference for HPV self-collection.

Results

Half (51%) of 221 women reported a preference for HPV self-collection, 19% preferred Pap testing, and 27% reported no preference. More women reported difficulty finding time to do the Pap test (31%) than the self-test (13%, p = .003) and being afraid of the self-test results (50%) than the Pap test results (36%, p = .02). There were relatively fewer reports of physical discomfort and pain from self-collection than Pap testing (discomfort: 18% self; 48% Pap; pain: 8% self; 30% Pap, p = .001). No differences were found in positive versus negative thoughts about the tests, trust in the tests' safety and accuracy, or willingness to do tests again.

Conclusions

Overall positive attitudes toward HPV self-collection compared with Pap testing among underscreened women suggest that self-collection is a promising option to increase cervical cancer screening in this high-risk population.

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