Conquering the Challenges of Colposcopy

A device that uses electrical impedance spectra to characterize abnormal cervical tissue may improve on the subjective nature of colposcopy and reduce the rate of cervical biopsy

Ursula Winters is a Consultant Obstetrician and Gynecologist at Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Manchester, UK.

One in every 135 women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer during her lifetime – and in recent years, incidence of the disease has increased in younger women (1). Early diagnosis is key, with 96 percent of patients diagnosed at Stage I surviving beyond five years, compared with only 5 percent of those diagnosed at Stage IV (2). This striking difference in survival rates makes it clear that early, accurate diagnosis and long-term survival are two sides of the same coin – and yet our testing methods are flawed, subject to false positives, false negatives, and differences of opinion between differently trained practitioners. But when discussing cervical smear tests and colposcopy, we frequently encounter two arguments: that they save lives, which is certainly true, and that we have no better way of screening. It’s that second argument that my colleagues and I decided to address with a new device that uses electrical impedance to detect and measure cervical tissue changes in women presenting with abnormal smears.

At a Glance

  • Both cervical smears and colposcopy are subject to interpretation – and confirmation of abnormality often means one or more cervical biopsies
  • The ZedScan device uses electrical impedance spectroscopy (resistance to flow of alternating current) to examine irregularities in cervical cell and tissue structure
  • The more abnormal the tissue, the more its structure breaks down and therefore the less resistance it offers to the flow of an electrical current
  • The device can also pinpoint the location of abnormal tissue, leading to more accurate sampling with fewer overall biopsies required  

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