A new device that will reduce the time to diagnose the ailment from several weeks to just a couple of minutes has been designed by British scientists.
The new device — APX — looks like a TV remote control with a pen like probe on its end. Researchers believe it will also ease the trauma of smear-testing for thousands of women.
The APX, originally developed at Sheffield University and now being developed by Sheffield technology firm Zilico Ltd, operates by passing a very mild electric current into the cervix and monitoring its movement through the cells.
The procedure is completely painless.
Electricity passes through different types of cells at varying speeds. Cancerous cells conduct electricity at a faster rate than healthy cervical cells, the Daily Mail reported.
Pre-cancerous cells in a very early stage of turning malignant conduct electricity at a different rate to healthy cells.
The APX identifies the presence of abnormal cells using a computer program that recognises patterns of electrical flow caused by cancerous and pre-cancerous cells.
Within a couple of minutes, the information is converted into a computerised image that details potential cancerous hot spots.
The device, that has already been tested on more than 500 women as part of a major European clinical trial, could dramatically improve cancer-detection and reduce false alarms.
“This technology has shown some interesting results. However, more research is needed to fine-tune it, followed by an evaluation to see whether its effectiveness in diagnosing cervical cancer is improved by this fine tuning,” said Stephen Duffy, a screening expert at the Cancer Research in UK.
Cervical cancer is a sexually-transmitted disease caused by a bug called the human papillomavirus.
Scientists are working to develop similar devices for early diagnosis of breast and prostate cancers.