22 November 2011

Rwanda: Hospitals Using Vinegar to Screen Cervical Cancer

Local hospitals are using vinegar to screen for cervical cancer, a process that has facilitated the fight against this type of cancer ravaging women countrywide.

An international NGO, Partners in Health (PIH), and its local sister organisation, Inshuti Mu Buzima, say that the screening process, referred to as Visual Inspection with Acetic acid (VIA), is now simpler, cheaper and faster.

"VIA allows us to rapidly diagnose and treat pre-cancerous lesions during the same patient visit," Aubrey Davis, an official with PIH Rwanda told The New Times.

Hospitals using VIA include Butaro in Burera District, and Rwinkwavu and Ruhengeri hospitals in Kayonza Musanze districts, respectively.

Describing the process, Davis said that clinicians swab a small amount of acetic acid - common vinegar - across the cervix.

"Normal cervical tissue remains unaffected by the solution, but damaged tissue found in pre-cancerous lesions turns white. To treat the pre-cancerous lesions which could develop into cervical cancer, some medics were taught how to use cryotherapy, which removes the lesions by freezing them with carbon dioxide or nitrous oxide," Davis explained.

According to an article published in The New York Times, in September, the precancerous spots that have turned white can immediately be frozen off with a metal probe cooled by a tank of carbon dioxide, available from any Coca-Cola bottling plant.

"The procedure is one of a wide array of inexpensive but effective medical advances being tested in developing countries. New cheap diagnostic and surgical techniques are already beginning to save lives," states the article.

Davis noted that PIH is partnering with the Ministry of Health to train healthcare providers on screening and treatment of cervical cancer, in order to support the development and implementation of Rwanda's National Cervical Cancer Plan. In the three hospitals, more than 1,100 women have been screened and 56 treated with cryotherapy.

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