September 20, 2012 — A cervical cancer screening method that uses vinegar is a cost-effective option for low-income countries that lack the resources needed to implement more complex screening programs, NPR's "Shots" reports. At least six African countries have adopted the technique in their public health care systems, and it is also being used in Thailand and parts of Asia, according to "Shots."
More than 80% of cervical cancer deaths worldwide occur in low-income countries, according to the World Health Organization. Although most cervical cancer deaths are preventable if the disease is caught early, these countries often lack the laboratories and other resources necessary to offer pap tests, which have dramatically lowered deaths from the disease in the U.S.
Ricky Lu, an ob-gyn with the international health group Jhpiego, is promoting the new method, which allows nurses or midwives to swab a woman's cervix with vinegar and then visually inspect -- either with the naked eye or a magnifying glass -- for pre-cancerous lesions. The method does not require laboratory tests or electricity.
Another advantage is that precancerous lesions, if detected, can be removed immediately, without the woman having to come back for a second procedure, said Doreen Ramogola-Masire, an ob-gyn in Botswana. Ramogola-Masire also takes a photo of the cervix to show the woman and explain the changes and process for removing the lesions (Beaubien, "Shots," NPR, 9/18).
Debra Ness, publisher & president, National Partnership
Andrea Friedman, associate editor & director of reproductive health programs, National Partnership
Melissa Safford, associate editor & policy advocate for reproductive health, National Partnership
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Heather Drost, Hanna Jaquith, Marcelle Maginnis, Ashley Marchand and Michelle Stuckey, staff writers
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