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CMAJ. 2000 Sep 5;163(5):513-8.

Comparison of self-collected vaginal, vulvar and urine samples with physician-collected cervical samples for human papillomavirus testing to detect high-grade squamous intraepithelial lesions.

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Health Services Delivery Research Unit, Father Sean O'Sullivan Research Centre, St. Joseph's Hospital, Hamilton, Ont.



Certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV) in cervical samples are strongly associated with squamous intraepithelial lesions (SIL) and invasive cervical carcinoma. We determined and compared the test characteristics of testing for HPV with samples obtained by patients and with samples obtained by their physicians.


In a consecutive series of women referred to a colposcopy clinic at a teaching hospital because of abnormalities on cervical cytologic screening, 200 agreed to collect vulvar, vaginal and urine samples for HPV testing. The physician then collected cervical samples for HPV testing, and colposcopy, with biopsy as indicated, was performed. Presence of HPV was evaluated using the hybrid capture II assay (Digene Corp., Silver Spring, Md.) with a probe cocktail for 13 carcinogenic types. Cervical specimens were also tested for HPV by polymerase chain reaction and hybridization with type-specific probes. Cervical smears for cytologic examination were obtained from all women.


High-grade lesions (high-grade squamous intraepithelial lesions [HSIL], equivalent to cervical intraepithelial neoplasia [CIN] grade 2 or 3, and adenocarcinoma) were found in 58 (29.0%) of the 200 women. Carcinogenic types of HPV were detected in the self-collected vaginal samples of 50 (86.2%) of these 58 women, in the self-collected vulvar samples of 36 (62.1%) and in the self-collected urine samples of 26 (44.8%). Carcinogenic types of HPV were detected in the cervical samples collected by physicians for 57 (98.3%) of these 58 women. The remaining 142 women (71.0%) had normal findings or low-grade squamous intraepithelial lesions (LSIL, CIN grade 1). Test results were negative or noncarcinogenic types of HPV were detected in the self-collected vaginal samples of 76 (53.5%) of these 142 women, in the self-collected vulvar samples of 89 (62.7%) and in the self-collected urine samples of 99 (69.7%). The sensitivity for self-collected samples ranged from 44.8% to 86.2%, and the specificity from 53.5% to 69.7%. For the samples collected by physicians, the sensitivity was 98.3% and the specificity 52.1%. The self-sampling methods were generally acceptable to the women: 98.4% of respondents (126/128) deemed urine sampling acceptable, 92.9% (118/127) found vulvar sampling acceptable, and 88.2% (112/127) found vaginal sampling acceptable.


Self-collection of samples for HPV testing was acceptable to women attending a colposcopy clinic for investigation of suspected cervical lesions and shows sufficient sensitivity to warrant further evaluation as a screening test for cervical cancer prevention programs.

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