A few decades ago, cervical cancer killed more American women than any other kind of cancer. Now, thanks to the development of the pap smear, the number of cases in the U.S. has declined dramatically, but that's not necessarily the case around the world. Every year, more than 250,000 women die of cervical cancer, nearly 85 percent of them in poor and middle-income countries. Some countries, like Thailand, are fighting back with a new procedure that may help bring cervical cancer treatment and prevention to all women.
When a woman has a pap smear, her doctor takes a scraping of cells from her cervix, which is then sent to a laboratory to be scanned for signs of cancer. Even in the U.S., it can take weeks for a woman to learn the results of her test. But poor countries lack the labs and the specialists to complete the procedure. In many cases, when the results do come in after many weeks, the woman who underwent the test has returned to the rural community where she lives or works. So if there is a problem with the test, it may be impossible to track down the patient for treatment.
But health experts at Johns Hopkins have developed a procedure that can cut back on the costs and time needed to determine if a woman is at risk for cervical cancer. The procedure, endorsed last year by the World Health Organization, uses vinegar to highlight precancerous lesions on a woman’s cervix. The vinegar makes precancerous spots turn white so that they can be immediately removed with a metal probe cooled by a tank of carbon dioxide.
The procedure to detect and treat precancerous lesions, known as VIA/cryo for visualization of the cervix with acetic acid (vinegar) and treatment with cryotherapy, can be performed in one visit by a nurse, making it much more likely that women in poor and rural communities will get the treatment they need to prevent cervical cancer.
(Source: New York Times)