Authors of a large-scale study conducted in India have found a simple vinegar test to be able to cut cervical cancer rates among Indian women by almost a third. It is expected to be capable of preventing 73,000 deaths all over the world each year. Wealthy countries have been able to reduce the fatalities by about 80 per cent with the regular use of Pap smears that can help detect the disease at an early stage during which it can be easily treated.
Cervical cancer still remains to be the leading cause of cancer death among women in India and several other developing countries that lack the money, nurses, doctors and/or laboratories for widespread screening. Vinegar test is comparatively inexpensive and has a comparable accuracy to Pap smear tests offering a solution to the problem.
In the vinegar test, a health care worker swabs the woman's cervic using vinegar. This contact with vinegar causes the pre-cancerous tumour to go white. The results can be known within a minute of taking the swab by flashing bright light at the cervix to visually inspect it. Apart from cost savings, the instant results are a big advantage for women living in rural areas who may have to otherwise travel several hours to visit a doctor.
The test may be used in the United States whera bout 40% of women who do not receive tretment after an abnormal Pap smear test. This large scale study studied 150, 000 women settled in the slums of Mumbai. It was found that the test can reduce cervical cancer by about 31 per cent by way of early detection and treatment.
"We have a problem with follow-up," she said.
"The thing in their program that was really wonderful is they assured follow-up - their completion rate was phenomenal."
The 15-year study also found that the vinegar test sidesteps a common problem of overdiagnosis. The incidence of cervical cancer was essentially the same among the women who were screened every other year and those who were simply taught how to watch for warning signs.
"We hope our results will have a profound effect in reducing the burden of cervical cancer in India and around the world," said lead study author Surendra Srinivas Shastri, a professor of preventive oncology at Mumbai's Tata Memorial Hospital.
"This is the first trial to identify a cervical cancer screening strategy that reduces mortality and is feasible to implement on a broad scale throughout India and in other developing countries."
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