Cervical Cancer Screening: New Technology Promises to Be Easier for Women by Donna John
Duke University researchers have developed a handheld device for cervical cancer screening that promises to do away with uncomfortable speculums and high-cost colposcopes. The “pocket colposcope” is a slender wand that can connect to many devices, including laptops or cell phones.If widely adopted, women might even use the device to self-screen, transforming screening and cure rates in low-income countries and regions of the U.S., where cervical cancer is most prevalent.
Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women, with more than 500,000 new cases occurring annually worldwide. In the U.S., physicians diagnose more than 10,000 cases each year. While more than 4,000 American women die of the disease each year, the mortality rate has dropped more than 50 percent in the past four decades, largely due to the advent of well-organized screening and diagnostic programs.
While the Pap smear can be performed by a non-specialist, colposcopy requires visualization of the cervix, relying on highly trained professionals and expensive equipment that is not easily accessible to underserved populations. These factors make cervical cancer more prevalent in women living in low socioeconomic communities.
Photos: Duke University