In 2018, there were an estimated 570,000 new cases of cervical cancer globally, with most of them occurring in women who either had no access to cervical screening, or had not participated in screening in regions where programs are available. Where programs are in place, a major barrier for women across many cultures has been the requirement to undergo a speculum examination. With the emergence of HPV-based primary screening, the option of self-collection (where the woman takes the sample from the vagina herself) may overcome this barrier, given that such samples when tested using a PCR-based HPV assay have similar sensitivity for the detection of cervical pre-cancers as practitioner-collected cervical specimens. Other advantages of HPV-based screening using self-collection, beyond the increase in acceptability to women, include scalability, efficiency, and high negative predictive value, allowing for long intervals between negative tests. Self-collection will be a key strategy for the successful scale up of cervical screening programs globally in response to the WHO call for all countries to work towards the elimination of cervical cancer as a public health problem. This review will examine self-collection for HPV-based cervical screening including the collection devices, assays and possible routine laboratory processes considering how they can be utilized in cervical screening programs.
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