Class blog for sharing and commenting on current events in biology.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

New Cervical Cancer Screening

Do It Yourself Cervical Cancer Screening

Cervical cancer is caused by the human papilloma virus, a sexually transmitted infection. It was a leading killer of women in the United States until the George Papanicolaou invented the Pap smear, which involves swabbing the cervix. But the test is expensive and requires a trained cytologist to read the cell smears. This article describes a new test that is so simple, a woman can do it herself at home. And its affordable and effective. This test will now be administered in El Salvador where most people can't afford the expensive Pap smear. This will likely save thousands of women's lives over the years to come.

Imagine if this test had been around when Henrietta Lacks was alive? Perhaps her condition could have been caught sooner and spared her life. I believe that this is the new frontier of medicine: affordable, easy to administer healthcare. With the majority of the world's population in poor and developing nations, scientists should turn their attention to serving those most at risk: those who can't afford the latest advances in Western medicine. This kind of research takes funding from charitable organizations, not big pharmaceutical companies that are only interested in profit. This new cervical cancer screen was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

I am happy for the women of El Salvador who will doubtless benefit from this research, and I hope that the test spreads to other poor regions of the world. However, the question still remains if the women who get the test will be able to afford the follow-up procedures necessary to treat cervical lesions.


  1. Ms. Davies', "Do It Yourself Cervical Cancer Screening" write up was, I believe to be, very well presented. She had a short summary of the article, fallowed by the importance of it, and she concluded it by stating her opinion on the article. I think Ms. Davies did a good job on summarizing what cervical cancer is and I think it was a great idea to tie in Henrietta Lacks because we're reading about her and she had cervical cancer. Thirdly, I really liked how she questioned if a woman tests positive for this cancer, will they be able to afford further treatment. I found it amazing that a test could go from, "expensive and requires a trained cytologist to read the cell smears," to, "a new test that is so simple, a woman can do it herself at home." I find it mind boggling that a test that once had to be done, was very costly and it took a very special person to give you results, went to a test that is now simplified that any ordinary person can cheaply get the equipment to test herself just as accurately (if not more) as a trained professional would have in the previous test. It is also reassuring to learn that this test will be likely to save thousands of woman's lives in future years. I think Ms. Davies did a wonderful job writing up this review. It was a pleasure to read because it really pulls you in, makes you think about things like Henrietta Lacks and if she got cured (which leads you into wondering about all the things HeLa cured, would they still be around id Henrietta Lacks was cured), and it makes you want to learn more. If Ms. Davies were to change anything it would maybe be working on the last paragraph more and having a bit more of a reflection. However, that could have been all the article reflected on her, I do not know, so if anything else she should add to her future write ups would be maybe adding more facts the article states.

  2. Haha, I wasn't intending to follow the current event report format for this one, although I probably should to set a good example. Your critique is valid.

    If I had to add to my report, I agree that the third paragraph should be expanded. My main criticism with the author and this article is that there is actually little science discussed. There are few details as to HOW the screening works, or what advances in technology or science allowed for this new test to be possible. I really would like to know how it works. I will have to look this up later.

    1. If you find anything interesting could you please share the link or article with me? I would love to learn more.