Mumbai : Tata Memorial Centre, a premier cancer treatment institute in the country, on Monday announced that its researchers have found an inexpensive way to screen for cervical cancer – the most common cancer among Indian women – which can prevent 72,600 deaths worldwide each year.

The procedure, involving use of vinegar, curbed the deaths caused by the cancer by 31 percent in a group of 1.5 lakh women, it said.

Cancer of the uterine cervix is the most common cancer affecting Indian women with an estimated 142,000 new cases coming to light every year and 77,000 women dying of the disease, a TMC spokesperson said here. “India accounts for one-third of the global burden of cervical cancer. The disease is caused by infection with a virus called human papilloma virus (HPV) and is related to poor genital hygiene.

“The disease develops slowly and most women experience no symptoms until it reaches advanced stages when treatment is often unsuccessful. Cervical cancer is preventable if the disease is detected early and treated in time.  “Cervical cancer incidence declined dramatically in high-income countries after introduction of organised population-based screening programmes using cervical cytology (Pap smear test),” he said.

“However, in India, a national population-based Pap smear screening programme is difficult to implement because of logistic problems related to need for laboratory facilities and expert cytologists.”

Visual inspection of the cervix after application of 4 per cent acetic acid (VIA) is a low-cost alternative, he said.

However, efficacy of VIA test, conducted by trained health workers, was yet to be ascertained. So Tata Memorial Centre embarked on this research; funds were provided by National Cancer Institute, USA, supplemented by TMC and Women’s Cancer Initiative, Mumbai.

According to TMC, results showed that VIA screening is safe, feasible and “acceptable to Indian women”, as there was an “overwhelming participation”.

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