The screening method for cervical cancer using light enables instant diagnosis of cervical cancer or precursor lesions in a pain-free procedure that take two minutes and the necessary treatment can be started without delay.
Among the most common cancers in the world, cervical cancer is also in the top ten most common cancers in our country. The most important feature of cervical cancer is that it can be prevented because cervical cancer develops in a woman over a 10-15 year transition period. It can be detected early during this process through regular screening. While the PAP smear method had been used since the 1950s as a cervical cancer screening method, the technological advancements in the field of health have brought with it a screening method using light that achieves much faster and reliable results. We asked Acibadem Maslak Hospital Gynecology and Obstetrics Specialist Prof. Dr. Mete Güngör the features that stand out in this method.
Why was a new technique needed for cervical cancer screening?
Once the PAP smear method started being used the rate of cervical cancer went down drastically but continued to be seen at a certain level over the years with a reduction in the number of cases. We know that the reason behind this is the effectiveness of screening. In the PAP smear method there are some margins for error called wrong negative and wrong positive results which can occur due to the person taking the sample from the cervix, the time it is taken, bleeding or discharge being present in the cervix, the method in which the sample was transferred and the specialist examining the test in the laboratory. This margin of error is seen in about 30-35 percent of patients on whom a PAP smear screening is done. This causes some cases to be overlooked, some to be misdiagnosed or for some to be subjected to unnecessary advanced procedures like conization or biopsies based on the misconception that there may be a risk. These procedures not only make the patient experience unnecessary anxiety but increase their healthcare expenditures. All of these reasons have led to the need for a technology that has a higher rate of accuracy, provides a correct diagnosis and can be used easily.
What kind of device is used in the screening with light method?
This device is a spectrometer and screens with a fluorescent light with no side effects. The structural and biochemical changes of cells are examined with a light to determine if cells could be cancerous. The patient lies down on an examining table just like a regular gynecology exam and her cervix is examined with a probe without causing any pain. The results are reflected on a screen within two minutes. Thus the results are obtained without having to use a laboratory and without losing any time. The doctor can decide immediately whether or not to do further procedures on the patient. The patient can also be saved from the stress having to wait several days for the results with this test. With this method, the patients that forget to follow up on their results because of it taking too long are not overlooked.
How is the image that is shown on the screen interpreted?
The source of the light on the device’s probe is shown on the cervix and the reflection that comes back is shown on the screen by the computer software to determine if the cells are low, medium or high risk. If the results show high risk the necessary procedures are performed on the patient. If the results show a medium risk the patient is asked to come back for screening at certain intervals. If the results are low risk the patient can go home with confidence.
Does it surpass the PAP smear test in early detection?
Yes, it can achieve a diagnosis two years before the PAP smear test because in order to be able to make a diagnosis with the PAP test the abnormal cells have to have emerged on the surface and started dispersing. However, in the screening with light method abnormalities that are still deep and just starting can be detected.
What is the rate of accuracy in the results?
I had said that the margin for error in a PAP smear test is 30-35 percent. The rate of accuracy for the screening by light method is between 85-95 percent…While it can be necessary to repeat a PAP smear several times to make a diagnosis the screening with light method achieves a diagnosis in one time. While different results can come out of the laboratory in a smear test this method gives a standard result not requiring a tissue sample so healthcare expenses are reduced.
How often should this screening be done?
The standard screening information is the same for this method. After 21 years of age or becoming sexually active every woman should be screened once a year. The screening with light method, which originates from the US and is also widely used in Europe, is only available in a few centers in Turkey. We recommend that women who do not have access to this method continue their screening schedule with PAP smears. On the other hand it is important to raise awareness about the developments in health technologies. We believe that these technological devices will be used and the methods for screening will change in the near future.
The advantages of the screening with light program:
Up to two years early diagnosis.
High rate of accuracy.
Decreases unnecessary processes.
Gives fast and instant results.
Very simple to use.
The process takes two minutes.
The patient feels no pain.
No interventional procedure is done.