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1-visit Screening, Prevention for Cervical Cancer Holds Promise

A method of screening women in Ghana for early signs of cervical cancer and providing //preventive treatment at the same visit appears to be safe, acceptable to women and feasible, according to a study by a researcher at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

If this technique can be scaled up effectively, it could help prevent one of the leading causes of cancer death in women in developing countries, said Paul Blumenthal, MD, MPH, acting professor of obstetrics and gynecology. He is the lead author of the study, which will be published in the April issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

In developed countries such as the United States, women receive a regular Pap smear to detect early signs of cervical cancer. Those with abnormalities on the Pap smear are called back for follow-up treatment. Although this approach is effective at detecting and eradicating precancerous abnormalities, it requires a degree of infrastructure that isn't often available in developing countries.

Pap smears require equipment such as slides, reagents and even a working microscope, which might not be available in developing countries, said Blumenthal. He carried out this work while on the faculty at Johns Hopkins University, in collaboration with the university's international health affiliate JHPIEGO and the Ghana Cervicare Group.

Almost 80 percent of the 490,000 cases of cervical cancer reported worldwide each year are in developing countries, such as Ghana. Each year, more than 250,000 women die from the disease. According to Blumenthal, for women in developing countries who survive childbearing, cervical cancer is often the next potentially fatal reproductive health issue they face.

The technique used in this study is one that has been known for many years. A doctor or nurse applies acetic acid, essentially vinegar, to a woman's cervix. Precancerous areas stand out as white regions against the pink,
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