Current Event #2
The MacGyver Cure for Cancer
David Walmer went on a volunteer mission to Haiti. He was sent to a hospital in a seaside town and was shocked by what he saw. Walmer, being a fertility specialist at Duke University, saw the local obstetrician-gynecologist names Jean-Claude Fertilien finishing a hysterectomy with the help of a flashlight, when the hospital generator wouldn’t start, or when an anesthesiologist wasn’t available for an emergency C-section. Walmer witnessed a women with undiagnosed cervical cancer go into septic shock and die right in front of him. In the US, cervical cancer is considered a preventable disease.
In the U.S., screening for cervical cancer is typically done with Pap smears, a quick swab of a woman’s cervix to screen for cellular changes that foreshadow cancer. If abnormal cells are found, a doctor will usually perform a colposcopy, in which the cervix is examined using a specialized magnifying lens, a colposcope, to see if disease is visible. Cervical cancer used to be the top cancer killer among women before the 50’s and 60’s, when the Pap smears were invented. The mortality rate for cervical cancer is relatively low in the US. In developing countries it kills 250,000 women a year.
David Walmers hope was to create a better way to look at the uterine lining. He bought a headlamp from a bike shop and a green filter from a camera store. That’s when it all began. At first Walmer's device was too uncomfortable and heavy. With the endless hours of work frustration rose and the project was set aside until Bob Malkin, a Duke professor and inventor suggested a new set of eyes look at the project. The students were game and the new colposcope was progressing. It would cost fewer than 750 dollars and help test for HPV. It could potentially end cervical cancer. Mother’s Day is approaching in Haiti, where some women wear flowers: red if your mother is living, white or purple if she is not. Family Health Ministries hopes to establish a new Mother’s Day tradition of cervical screening.