HPV home testing kits – all you need to know

profile picture of James Stevenson
Lead Physician, Bupa Health Clinics
22 May 2024
Next review due May 2027

Cervical screening tests (‘smear tests’) that you can do yourself at home have recently been trialled in the UK. If effective, there’s hope that they’ll become widely available. But who can get a test kit and how easy is it to do? Here I’ll answer some of the key questions around HPV self-tests.

A woman relaxing with a cup of coffee on a sofa

What is HPV home testing?

The HPV home tests (or self-samples) involve taking a sample from your vagina using a swab (a long cotton bud). You can do this at a time and place that’s most comfortable for you. Detailed instructions are supplied with the kit. You then put the sample in the post, where it will be tested for human papillomavirus (HPV) in a laboratory.

HPV is a common virus that most people get at some point in their lives. It doesn’t usually cause any problems, as your immune system will usually fight it off. But in some people, it can cause the cells in your cervix (the lower part of your womb) to change. If left untreated, these cells can turn into cervical cancer over time.

What happens if you test positive for HPV?

If the sample shows that you’re positive for HPV, your GP practice will contact you to book a follow-up standard cervical screening test.

A nurse or GP will take a sample of cells from your cervix, which can be tested to check for cell changes. If there are abnormal cells, these can then be treated.

What happens if you test negative for HPV?

Most people have a negative result, which means your risk of cervical cancer is extremely low. You’ll then be invited for your next test in another three to five years.

Who can have a home test?

At the moment, self-testing is just being offered as part of a trial in certain areas. This is a necessary step to check how well the new test works. If successful, the self-tests should become available across the UK.

What are the benefits of HPV self-sampling?

It’s hoped that being able to take a sample yourself, in the comfort of your own home, will encourage more people to have cervical screening. A recent survey of women in England found that half would prefer self-sampling cervical screening over clinician screening.

If you find attending a cervical screening appointment difficult for any reason, then self-sampling should make things easier for you. You won’t need to book an appointment or be examined unless the result of your self-sample is positive. Most women find self-testing comfortable, pain-free, and easy to do.

What if I would prefer for a health professional to do the test?

It’s your choice whether to do the self-sample. If you’re offered a self-test kit but would prefer to have screening done at your GP surgery, you can still do that.

If you’re worried about doing the test yourself, it might help to know that initial research shows 99 per cent of people are able to do it accurately. And if you do have any problems, you’ll be sent another kit.

What should I do if I’m worried about cervical cancer?

Both the HPV self-test and standard cervical screening tests are designed to screen people who don’t have symptoms. These are vital to attend as most people with cervical cancer don’t experience symptoms. If you do have any symptoms you’re worried about, such as abnormal bleeding, you should always seek advice from a GP.

We offer a range of sexual health services within our Bupa Health Centres. So whether you have symptoms and need to speak to a GP or don't have symptoms but want a check to see if you currently have an STI we have a check to suit you. Any customers who test positive receive a follow up with a GP and support from our 24/7 Nurse HealthLine. Learn more today.

profile picture of James Stevenson
Dr James Stevenson (he/him)
Lead Physician, Bupa Health Clinics



Annie Fry, Health Content Editor at Bupa UK

    • YouScreen. Cervical screening made easier. The small C. North Central London Cancer Alliance., accessed May 2024
    • UK National Screening Committee: HPValidate cervical screening self-sampling study nears completion. GOV.UK, Published June 2023
    • What is HPV self-sampling? Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust., published January 2021
    • Cervical screening: programme overview. Public Health England., updated March 2021
    • Behind the headlines: HPV self-sampling. Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust., published 24 February 2021
    • Drysdale H, Marlow LAV & Waller J. Self-sampling for cervical screening offered at the point of invitation: A cross-sectional study of preferences in England. Journal of Medical Screening, SAGE Journals. 29(3),
    • Symptoms of cervical cancer. Cancer Research UK., updated September 2023

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