Simple Cancer Test Saves Lives in Burkina Faso

    19 November, 2013


    From VOA Learning English, this is the Health Report.

    The World Health Organization (WHO) says cervical cancer kills 250,000 women worldwide each year. WHO officials say four out of five of those women live in poor countries, like in the west African nation of Burkina Faso.

    Doctors there are using a simple low-cost method to test for cervical cancer. They say the test can save thousands of lives every year.

    Yacouba Ouedraogo directs the cervical cancer prevention program at a health clinic in the capital, Ouagadougou. He says cervical cancer has become the most common cancer among women in Burkina Faso, but he says finding and treating the cancer in its early stages has recently become much easier.

    Doctors there are using a small piece of cotton covered with distilled white vinegar - the vinegar can be bought at almost any market in Africa. The doctors rub the cotton swab on the opening of a woman's uterus.  Once the liquid touches the organ, any pre-cancerous or cancerous cells will turn white.

    Dr. Stanislas Paul Nebie has been using the vinegar test on his patients since 2010. He says it is very simple, and unlike other tests, which can be costly, and require sending cell samples to a laboratory. With the vinegar test, he says, any problems can be seen immediately and treated during the same visit.

    At a medical center in Ouagadougou, women pay $4 for the test and treatment for any cells that show signs of cancer.

    Dr. Nebie says this is a good deal, considering the high cost of radiology or surgical treatments if the cancer is not caught early. He said medical centers, even in rural villages, can and are performing the vinegar test and suggesting patients for treatment.

    Burkina Faso does not yet have numbers for how many lives the vinegar test has saved. But doctors in India announced earlier this year that the test had cut cervical cancer deaths by 31 percent in a study there. They said the study involved 150,000 women.

    Most cervical cancer comes as a result of the human papillomavirus, which is passed through sexual contact. The disease often has few signs until it reaches advanced stage and becomes more difficult to treat. Women simply do not know they have it, sometimes until it is too late.

    And that is the Health Report from VOA Learning English. You can read, listen and learn American English with health news on our website You can also watch captioned videos at the VOA Learning English channel on YouTube. I'm Christopher Cruise.