Published: 2017-02-23

Visual inspection with acetic acid for cervical cancer screening in a tertiary health care centre

Shaily Agarwal, Renu Gupta, Apurva Agarwal, Apurva Agarwal, Kiran Pandey, Neena Gupta, Arti Katiyar


Background: Cervical cancer is one of the most prevalent malignant neoplasms among women in developing countries. Invasive cervical cancer is preceded by a long premalignant phase known as cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN). The goal of cervical cancer screening is the detection and treatment of precancereous lesions before cancer develops. The objective of the study was to assess visual inspection with acetic acid (VIA) as a screening tool for use in a well-equipped health center , to evaluate VIA as an alternative or adjunct to the Papanicolaou (Pap) smear, and to determine if VIA can play a role in settings other than low resource ones.

Methods: This was a prospective study of 1520 asymptomatic women, carried out in 2014-2015. The study was performed at a tertiary care center equipped with the latest-generation technology and highly trained oncologists. The women underwent a complete clinical evaluation, including a Pap smear and VIA. Participants with any positive test were referred for colposcopy and biopsy.

Results: More women tested positive by VIA than on the Pap smear (6.9% vs. 4.2%; P =0.0001). There were 27 women with histologic cervical intraepithelial neoplasia grade 1 (CIN1); of these, 12 were detected by Pap and 15 by VIA (P = 0.4). A diagnosis of CIN 2 or 3 (CIN2–3) was confirmed in a total of 11 cases; Pap detected 4 of the cases and VIA 9 of the cases (P = 0.06). The positive predictive value for detection of CIN 2+ was 8.5% for VIA and 6.2% for Pap (P = 0.5). Most importantly, while only 2.8% of patients with a positive VIA were lost to follow-up before colposcopy that was true for 26.5% of the women with a positive Pap smear (P < 0.0001).

Conclusions: VIA is useful for detection of precursor lesions of cervical cancer not only in low-resource settings but also in well-equipped health centers and cancer centers. In these non low-resource settings, VIA has a positive predictive value comparable to the conventional Pap smear, but it is more likely to achieve earlier diagnosis, follow-up, and treatment than cytology based screening.


Cervix neoplasms, Acetic acid, Diagnostic techniques and procedure

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