A study by AIIMS has found that the outcomes of a three-step,low-cost,visual screening method for cervical cancer conducted over a single visit of a patient to the hospital are similar to the costlier and conventional pap smear method. Doctors have also established that this three-step test,for the first time,eliminates the problem of over treatment associated with single-step visual screening which involves a large number of false positives.
The findings have been published in the latest issue of Indian Journal of Medical Research brought out by the Indian Council of Medical Research.
As many as 450 women attending the institutes gynaecology OPD from May 2005 to 2007,who exhibited primary symptoms of cervical cancer,were put through both the screening methods visual and the cytological pap smear. Doctors then evaluated the detection rates of both the tests.
According to Dr Neerja Bhatla,additional professor of gynaecology at AIIMS,The reason cervical cancer continues to be the most common cancer among Indian women is two-fold one,that we dont have a cost-effective national screening programme for the disease and second,confirmed diagnoses by the pap smear test are not only expensive but also require at least three-four visits to the hospital. Many diagnosed patients do not come back for follow-ups.
A single-visit,comprehensive and reliable test formula,like the one we have suggested,is needed,particularly in rural areas,to control this epidemic, Dr Bhatla said.
In the study,doctors found that both the pap smear and visual inspection tests missed only one case of cervical cancer,thus showing comparable detection rates. With the three-stage screening,rates of over treatment were also comparable at 12.5 per cent for both the screening methods.
Such a screening programme at the national level,after training to paramedics for visual screenings,can go a long way in controlling cervical cancer, Dr Bhatla added.