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Costa Rican Scientists Develop New Test for Cervical Cancer

By Francisco Renick, MD

Recently a group of researchers and physicians of the Costa Rican company BioTD invented a new method to diagnose cervical cancer, CitoFem. This new technique is a quicker and improved alternative to the 85-year old Pap smear. 

Among its many advantages, CitoFem allows a faster analysis of results and provides a better visualization of cancer cells, making early cancer detection and treatment more likely. In addition, its cost is similar or even lower than that of the traditional Pap smear, making the method affordable for many women.

Researchers from the Costa Rican company BioTD developed a
new diagnostic method to detect cervical cancer called CitoFem.
Photo: Alberto Font (Tico Times)

Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer among women in Costa Rica. As with most medical conditions, early detection means better treatment options and a higher chance of curing the disease.

In Costa Rica, CitoFem is already the most commonly used method in private pathology labs, also sparking the interest of authorities at Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS). The institution will conduct a pilot project in Limón, where the disease commonly presents itself with high mortality rates. According to the CCSS, the average incidence rate for cervical cancer in the country is 26 per 100,000 women; in Limón the number of cases rises to 108 per 100,000 women. Guanacaste's situation is quite similar, with high rates of cervical cancer among women.

If the plan is successful, this new method could be the much needed solution to the long list of Pap smear samples that are currently pending throughout the country in various CCSS laboratories, where results take up to two years to be given to patients.

CitoFem is the first Central American medical device to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), also receiving a second place in the medical inventions category at the International Exhibition of Inventions, which was held in April in Geneva.

Pap Smears: a Critical Tool for Women's Health

By María José Zamora, MD

What is cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer, which affects only women, occurs when one or more uterine cells mutate and experience excessive growth, turning into abnormal cells. It is most commonly associated with human papilloma virus (HPV), which is transmitted through sexual contact, causing lesions such as genital warts. This virus can be easily spread and the risk increases with the number of sexual partners that both you and your sexual partners have had.  

How is it screened and detected?
Through a Papanicolaou test (Pap smear), a gynecological test in which a sample of cells from the cervix (a part of the uterus or womb) is taken with a spatula or small brush. There are currently two available methods: traditional Pap smears or a liquid based cytology (such as CitoFem).

¿Who should have a Pap smear or liquid based cytology ? 
Every woman 18 years old or older and/or those who are sexually active. It should also be done in the presence of high-risk behaviors such as multiple sexual partners, in HIV patients, in pregnant women and in women with an abnormal menstrual period that occurs with pain, itching or a tingling sensation.

The test should be done once a year or as recommended by your physician.

What else should you keep in mind?
Remember that the best time for the test to be done is when you are not having your menstrual period, ideally 10 to 20 days after the first day of your last period. Other factors that may alter the results and which should be avoided are vaginal douching or irrigation, the use of vaginal creams or feminine deodorants and having sex 24 hours before the test.


More health news

Break Up With Your Dessert & Try This Healthier Option

Sometimes we all yearn for an over the top sweet dessert and once in a while it’s ok to indulge. Luckily when we get that craving there are some great handmade options sold locally.

Four Herbs for a Healthier You

Herbs have been used since the beginning of human existence to help regulate our bodies and ward off illness. At some point along the way we learned how to cook with them, make them into tea and into medicine. 

Pipa Fria: What in the World is this?

On one of our road trips in Costa Rica, we passed a roadside wooden “pipa fria” sign as our grown son exclaimed, “pull over!” He jumped out and returned with liquid filled plastic bags. As I asked “what in the world?” he replied, “Are you kidding? This is the best stuff around.” I now drink pipa fria daily – several times a day! I crave it.

Tips to Help you Prepare for a Successful Surgery

For most of us, the thought of undergoing surgery is overwhelming and brings up a lot of fear and anxiety. Taking time to prepare mentally and physically will ultimately enhance the outcome of surgery. Individuals who prepare in this way have quicker recoveries, less pain and fewer complications.


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