Magnivisualizer is a user-friendly device costing about Rs. 10,000

The Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry on Monday launched indigenous equipment that can detect early cervical cancer and be used even by healthcare workers with basic training.

The device AV Magnivisualizer which was developed by the Institute of Cytology and Preventive Oncology under the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has 95 per cent accuracy for detecting pre-cancerous lesions. Randomised clinical control trials have confirmed its efficacy in reducing incidence and mortality of the disease. It can be made available in remote rural areas.

This is a user-friendly device which costs about Rs 10,000 as against the present devices which cost between Rs 8-10 lakh and are beyond the reach of most people.

The device has a white light source with variable interchangeable magnification and can be operated on a 12- volt battery in rural and semi-urban areas where electric supply is not regular. Magnivisualizer has been found to pick up 1.5 times more high-grade pre-cancerous lesions than the ordinary tungsten light.

“The ICMR is initiating studies to assess its applicability even for oral pre-cancerous and cancerous lesions,” V.M. Katoch, Director General of ICMR, said.

Cervical cancer is the most common malignancy among Indian women, particularly those who marry early. Current estimates indicate that approximately 1.32 lakh new cases are diagnosed and 74,000 deaths occur annually in India, accounting for nearly one-third of global cervical cancer deaths.

Launching the device, Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said it would be available in the market within the next 8-9 months and efforts would be made to provide them up to the Community Health Centres in the initial phase. In the next phase it would be made available in the Primary Health Centres (PHC), where cervical cancer cases go undetected. “We are aware of the shortage of human resource at the PHC level,” Mr. Azad said, adding that efforts would be made to train the available manpower at both levels until the device reaches them.

Cervical cancer takes about a decade to fully develop and is often detected when it has spread substantially. It starts from a pre-cancer stage called dysplasias and early detection and appropriate treatment at this stage can halt its progression, resulting in decreased incidence or mortality.

At present, cytology screening or Pap Smear is available only in advanced cytology centres, Regional Cancer Centres and some medical colleges. The required infrastructure, trained manpower and related mechanism for initial screening are not available to carry out population-based screening at the State or the national level.