Image: Research asserts a prototype mini colposcope can make cervical cancer screening more accessible (Photo courtesy of Duke University).
A novel handheld device could replace uncomfortable speculums and high-cost colposcopes used for cervical cancer screening.
Developed by researchers at Duke University (Durham NC, USA), the POCkeT colposcope is a miniature, tampon-sized vaginal inserter with a slim tubular body that has a funnel-like curved tip measuring approximately 2.5 cm in diameter. The inserter has a channel through which a two megapixel mini camera with light emitting diode (LED) illumination fits in in order to capture an image. The device also includes a channel through which contrast agents, such as acetic acid or Lugol’s iodine, can be used so that cervical cancer screening procedures can be applied.
The POCkeT colposcope, which was developed using 3D computer-aided design (CAD) software, was tested using mechanical simulations on a custom vaginal phantom model, employing a range of vaginal pressures and uterine tilts in order to finalize the optimal design. Two final designs were tested with fifteen volunteers to assess cervix visualization, comfort, and usability, as compared to a standard metal speculum. The POCkeT colposcope can also connect to other devices, including laptops or cell phones. The study describing the design process and testing were published on May 31, 2017, in PLOS One.
“The mortality rate of cervical cancer should absolutely be zero percent because we have all the tools to see and treat it; but it isn’t,” said senior author professor of biomedical engineering Nimmi Ramanujam, PhD. “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.”
Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women, with more than 500,000 new cases occurring annually worldwide. The two most common detection methods include the Pap smear, which can be performed by a non-specialist, and colposcopy, which requires visualization of the cervix using a speculum, a colposcope, and a trained professional to administer the test. Colposcopes and people who know how to use them are difficult to find in many low-income regions.