Using Vinegar to Detect Cervical Cancer

A fascinating story in Time Healthland that I had to share – Vinegar is being used to detect cervical cancer in developing countries.  The new method involves using a solution of vinegar that is 5% acetic acid and brushing it onto the cervix; the solution turns precancerous lesions white so they can be frozen off at the same visit.  The method is known as VIA/cryo and was developed by Johns Hopkins medical school in 1990, recently it has been endorsed by the World Health Organization.

Financial disparities in developing countries prevents women from being properly screened for cervical cancer, with this new method, nurses can be trained to detect the lesions quickly and effectively.  The New York Times reported, “[VIA/cryo has the] potential to do for poor countries what the Pap smear did for rich ones: end cervical cancer’s reign as the No. 1 cancer killer of women.”  The statistics are staggering, 85% of the more than 250,000 women who die each year from cervical cancer are from poor and middle income countries.
One downfall of this method is that vinegar also turns benign lesions white, leading to false positives.  Freezing off the nonmalignant lesions does not harm the patient, as it is a minor procedure and sensation felt from the removal dissipates after a day or two.

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