Researchers have developed new cervical cancer screening technology that enables physicians to detect and remove pre-cancerous cells from the surface or canal of the cervix during the patient’s same appointment.
The Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure (LEEP) is typically performed with local anesthesia and is similar to a colon screening in which physicians remove any developing polyps in real-time during a colonoscopy. The technology was introduced at the Women’s Health—Family Health Centers (FHC) at NYU Langone.
This ease of access to treatment can help many women in low-income communities stay healthy, while avoiding time-consuming and costly interventions that seem out-of-reach. Clinicians at the FHC say many patients are reticent to participate in screenings, especially older women who may not be aware of cervical cancer risks or those who are worried about insurance and documentation.
“The LEEP option is local and free of charge, encouraging women to take that first step and come in for a screening,” says Meleen Chuang, MD, medical director of women’s health at the Family Health Centers at NYU Langone. “And because LEEP can treat high-grade pre-cancer lesions in the office, it’s especially helpful for women who find it hard to get away from jobs or family to take care of their own health.
The American Cancer Society estimates there were 14,480 new cases of cervical cancer in the United States in 2021, and 4,280 women died from this disease that shows no signs or symptom in its early states. Cervical cancer’s stealthy profile makes screenings especially vital.
Death rates remain higher for minority women, in particular, and access to care is a factor, several studies from the National Institutes of Health have shown.
Along with screenings, vaccines are making a difference in reducing cervical cancer rates. The FHC also offers low-cost access to the HPV vaccine, which guards against human papillomavirus, the virus that causes cervical cancer.