Scientists at Duke University have developed a handheld colposcope that can be used for cervical screening. The slender wand can be attached to a smartphone or laptop to display images of the cervix.
At present, detecting cervical cancer requires specialized equipment. Healthcare professionals use a device called a speculum to spread the vagina and an expensive colposcope, which is a telescopic magnifying device and camera, to look at the cervix for signs of cancer. This expensive equipment means that cervical cancer detection is much lower than it should be in low-resource settings around the world.
Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women, and 500,000 women are diagnosed with it annually. “The mortality rate of cervical cancer should absolutely be zero percent because we have all the tools to see and treat it,” explains Nimmi Ramanujam, Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Duke, and senior author on a study in PLOS ONE reporting the new colposcope. “But it isn’t. That is in part because women do not receive screening or do not follow up on a positive screening to have colposcopy performed at a referral clinic. We need to bring colposcopy to women so that we can reduce this complicated string of actions into a single touch point.”
The researchers at Duke wanted to make cervical cancer detection more mobile and less expensive. They developed a pocket-sized all-in-one device that is just a little wider than a tampon. The wand has a camera and light at one end and the images it captures can be displayed on a phone or laptop. The idea is that healthcare professionals, or even the women themselves, can visualize the cervix easily and with minimum equipment. The device has been trialed in a small number of volunteers, who nearly all reported that they preferred it to a traditional speculum.
The team is working on ways to analyze images captured by the device using machine learning techniques to detect abnormal cells or cancer automatically. In this way, the colposcope could be used by community health workers, midwives, or even the women themselves.
Via: Duke University…