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FOX Medical Team

Vinegar used to screen for cervical cancer

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Researchers at the world largest meeting of cancer specialists announced this week that they've found an inexpensive screening test for cervical cancer.

They tracked 150,000 women over a 15-year period in India. They didn't have easy access to cervical cancer screenings like pap tests, so they were screened instead with vinegar swabs.

"Well, there a half billion women in India, they have a high rate of cervical cancer, and they're not doing any screening, right now.  The key to saving women's lives in India, or in the United States, is to catch it in its precancerous stages, and be able to treat it," said Dr. Kevin Ault.

Ault, a professor of gynecology and obstetrics at Emory School of Medicine and the Winship Cancer Institute says the beauty of the vinegar test is that vinegar is cheap and readily available.

Millions of woman in developing countries don't have access to a pap smear to collect and screen the cells.

"It takes a lot of technology to do pap smears," Ault said. "You have to have somebody look at the pap smear. You have to have someone to interpret the pap smear. You have to have a way to process them.  And the beauty of this study in India is that it was low tech."

Community-based non-medical health workers dipped a cotton swab in vinegar and then applied it to the woman's cervix. They then waited 60 seconds before visually checking to see if the pink cervix - had changed color.

"Basically if you put vinegar or acetic acid on precancerous tissue of the cervix, it turns it white. It's a pretty simple technique that doesn't take a lot of training for you to figure out between white and normal, basically," Ault said.

So how well did the vinegar test work? Researchers say a screening every other year reduced cancer deaths by more than 30 percent.

Ault says it's not ready for prime-time, but researchers are trying to develop a test women could do at home for HPV, which is a major cause of cervical cancer.

If you're a woman, talk to your doctor about when you should get your next pap test.

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