Low cost pocket colposcope could be future of cervical cancer screening

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Photo: 3rd Stone Design/Duke University
Pocket colposcope

Developed by Duke university, the device has now been successfully tested at All India Institute of Medical Sciences

Since the 19th century when J Marion Sims the father of gynaecology perfected the speculum on slave women who had been bought solely for the purpose of procreation, cervical cancer screening has been a painful process. With the speculum prying open the vagina for a glimpse of the cervix – the mouth of the uterus – it is a torturous but essential procedure.

All that may soon change, with the All India Institute of Medical Sciences having successfully completed trials for a low cost device – a pocket colposcope – that makes the process painless and also costs a fraction of what a normal colposcope- the device used for cervical cancer screening – currently costs. The pocket colposcope that has been developed by Dr Nimmi Ramanujam’s team at Duke University and the trial conducted by Dr Neerja Bhatla’s team at AIIMS, costs just $500. A colposcope costs $15000.

India has a population of 436.76 million women aged 15 years and older who are at risk of developing cervical cancer. Every year 122844 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and 67477 die from the disease

This makes the pocket colposcope an ideal device for use in a primary care setting and in resource sensitive setups like in India. Dr Ramanujam is already in talks with the Tamil Nadu government to introduce it in some primary care centres in the state. Inspired by a tampon, the device enters the body just like a tampon does. It is tipped with a high end camera and a light that can look at the cervix with as much or even more clarity than the current device.

Estimates on the National Health Portal say: “India has a population of 436.76 million women aged 15 years and older who are at risk of developing cervical cancer. Every year 122844 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and 67477 die from the disease (estimations for 2012). In India cervical cancer is the second most common cancer among women and also the second most common cancer among women between 15 and 44 years of age.”

The Pocket Colposcope is a highly portable, cervical cancer screening solution to be used at the community-level setting. The technology was developed by Duke University’s Tissue Optical Spectroscopy Lab and evaluated clinically in Tanzania and Peru. 3rd Stone Design was brought onto the project to envision a highly usable device that could be repeatably cleaned. The final systems were fully functional, light weight, simple to use devices that allow health providers to capture a high grade image of the cervix. The quality and ease of use make it a unique device in primary care settings.