Wednesday, November 23, 2011

News Brief: Fighting Cervical Cancer With Vinegar and Ingenuity

Hallie Abelman

Cervical cancer continues to be the number one cancer killer amongst women worldwide. But thanks to a newly approved procedure developed by the Johns Hopkins Medical School, this title might begin to decrease, especially in rural and poor countries. The procedure, known as VIA/cryo for visualization of the cervix with aceditc acid, involves inserting vinegar into a woman’s cervix. The quality of the vinegar causes precancerous spots to turn white, allowing the nurse to detect the spots more readily than if doing a normal pap smear, in which scrapings must be sent to a lab first. The vinegar highlights the tumors because they have more DNA than other tissue. If detected, these spots are then frozen off with a metal probe. This procedure has been adopted most prominently in Thailand, where 500,000 of the 8 million women ages 30 to 44 have already been screened. Although only recently endorsed by the World Health Organization, this relatively simple and inexpensive procedure has the potential to aid poor and developing countries in reducing cervical cancer rates. 85% of the 250,000 women who die from cervical cancer are poor or rural inhabitants. Because cervical cancer takes so long to develop, it is impossible to detect if rates have dropped in Thailand. But 6,000 women involved in the first trial 11 years ago continue to be cancer-free and screening significantly lowers their risk. The freezing process is about 90% effective and is becoming a more popular method worldwide.

Reference: McNeil Jr., Donald G. “Fighting Cervical Cancer With Vinegar and Ingenuity”. The New York Times Health. Web. October 30, 2011. 
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