Though early detection through Pap smears has made cervical cancer relatively rare in the United States (with an annual death toll of about 4,000), lack of preventive screening and treatment results in the death of some 200,000 women in developing countries each year. In those areas, the manpower and testing laboratories often aren't available to facilitate regular check ups. However, Dr. Surendra Shastri, head of preventive oncology at Tata Memorial Hospital in Mumbai, may have come up with a solution.
Suspicious Pap smears are usually further investigated by dousing cervical cells in acetic acid, which is basically a sterile vinegar solution. This allows even less-trained healthcare workers to examine the cells under a microscope and determine if any cancerous cells are present. After conducting research comparing unscreened women to those screened with the vinegar process only for fifteen years, Dr. Shastri presented his findings yesterday to the American Society for Clinical Oncology — announcing an astounding 31% reduction in death from cervical cancer among the women regularly screened with his new method.
In India alone, implementing this process could save 22,000 women a year — and 73,000 worldwide. And, while Dr. Shastri's study benefited from the high level of organization and diligence of a controlled study, the process is simple and cheap enough that it could work miracles in areas with limited medical access. The issue lies mainly in the follow-up process; it may prove difficult to get women who test positive into hospitals for the necessary treatment. But, this is one case where knowing is quite literally half the battle; and coupled with other low-cost methods currently in development, it could mean major change in the health of women the world over. (Forbes)
Image: Via Forbes.