A major cervical cancer screening program using the well-known vinegar test would be launched by the Lucknow health office, India.
Cervical cancer refers to the abnormal growth of uncontrolled tissue inside the cervix uteri, caused by human papilloma virus (HPV) in 98 percent of cases. The symptoms of cervical cancer include abnormal bleeding and vaginal discharge.
Common risk factors of cervical cancer are poor genital hygiene during menstrual cycle, early marriage and subsequent pregnancy and frequent childbirths.
The World Health Organization estimates that more than 1,40,000 Indian women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and around 74,000 die from it.
The test was developed by Dr Surendra Shastri and his team at Tata Memorial Hospital in Mumbai, after 15 years of research. The test can reduce the cervical cancer death rate by 31 percent, thus saving 22,000 women from dying.
Lucknow is the first district to be launching the test in Uttar Pradesh, India.
"We aim to screen at least 30,000 women aged between 30 and 60 years through the program funded by the National Health Mission," said SNS Yadav, chief medical officer, Lucknow.
"The frontline workers would identify possible cases in the village and take them to designated centers for primary screening. Here, the vinegar test would be performed under the guidance of a medical officer to identify a suspected case and take up further diagnosis," he added.
Veerangana Avanti Bai Hospital would conduct test in the urban areas. Community health centers in Malihabad and Mohanlalganj would cater to rural women.
Dr Yadav said, "This is being done in the wake of expected resistance as literacy rates and general understanding is low in UP."
The test is simple and cost-effective. A trained primary health worker swabs a woman's cervix with a solution made of four parts of glacial acetic acid or vinegar and 96 parts of water.
A minute later, the cervix is observed under bright light. Vinegar causes the cancerous and precancerous cells to turn white. The health worker studies the patch and refers the woman for further diagnosis.
"The closest and more accurate competitor of the vinegar test, the pap smear, which involves taking a swab from the cervix and checking it for abnormal cell growth in a lab, is far more expensive. While the vinegar test costs Rs 30, the pap smear ranges from Rs 300 to Rs 750," said Dr Shailendra Yadav, oncologist at King George's Medical University.
A study conducted by researchers at the Institute of Medical Sciences, Banaras Hindu University on the incidence of cancers in Uttar Pradesh revealed that cervical cancer (43.8%) was the leading ailment among women followed by breast cancer (15.15%), head and neck (7.44%), gall bladder (7.26%) and other cancers.