Pocket colposcope allows in-home screenings for cervical cancer

Screening for cervical cancer could one day be done in a woman’s home. Researchers from Duke University, published their findings in PLOS One, have developed a handheld device that combines complex cervical screening tools.

The “pocket colposcope” aims to combat cervical cancer mortality rates by allowing patients to screen without the presence of a specialist. With the ability to be used at a low cost, the tool could provide low-income women with an effective, cost-effective way to detect cervical cancer.

"The mortality rate of cervical cancer should absolutely be zero percent because we have all the tools to see and treat it," said Nimmi Ramanujam, the Robert W. Carr Jr. Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Duke. "But it isn't. That is in part because women do not receive screening or do not follow up on a positive screening to have colposcopy performed at a referral clinic. We need to bring colposcopy to women so that we can reduce this complicated string of actions into a single touch point."

The tool combines a speculum and colposcope into a wand-like device with a light and camera on one end. Healthcare providers and women themselves can utilize the tool to take images of the cervix and send them to specialists through a computer if needed.

"We recruited 15 volunteers on Duke's campus to try out the new integrated speculum-colposcope design," said Mercy Asiedu, a graduate student working on the project in Ramanujam's lab. "Nearly everyone said they preferred it to a traditional speculum and more than 80 percent of the women who tried the device were able to get a good image. Those that couldn't felt that they just needed some practice."