A new portable, handheld screening device could spell the end of dreaded pap smear test.
The device, made by British medical diagnostics firm Zilico, consists of a pencil-shaped probe with a docking station that delivers a painless electrical charge through the cervical cells. In a process called electrical impedance resistivity, the device measures changes or abnormalities in the cells across a range of frequencies. Precancerous cells will conduct electricity at a different rate than normal, healthy cells. Results are delivered in minutes, making a quick diagnosis that can otherwise take weeks,and that could even be more accurate, according to the company, which unveiled the system last month.
The device is also linked to a computer program that highlights areas with precancerous cells. Not only could the device, which is in a trial phase in Europe, make the pap smear a thing of the past, it could also end the the need for vaccines for the human papilloma virus, that only provide limited protection against the virus. Similar technology could also be used in early breast cancer and prostate cancer detection, according to the company.