Affordable Solutions To Cervical Cancer Threat

Think differently — the CerviScope instead

Long time Inconvenient Woman readers know my feelings about Merck’s HPV-Vaccine Gardasil.

Even if I believed the vaccine 100% effective and completely safe, I simply do not understand how any public or private health organization can justify the cost of the drug verses the alleged benefit. It is my opinion that the Merck vaccine solution is too costly and it is sucking up women’s heathcare funds that would be better allocated for more sustainable approaches to controlling cervical caner in both the developing world and here at home.

The following story by Sarah Avery, Staff Writer for The News & Observer Online Edition features just one of the solutions innovative health care professionals are developing to protect women from cervical cancer. Please contact The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and ask them to reconsider their support for the use of Gardasil in the developing countries their organization serves and invest in sustainable solutions like the CerviScope instead.

Cheap scope can spot cancer

By Sarah Avery, Staff Writer
The News & Observer Online Edition

Practicing medicine in a developing country is often an exercise in the art of jerry-rigging, but Dr. David Walmer is taking the challenge to a new level.

Walmer, a reproductive endocrinologist at Duke University who has done extensive work in Haiti, is leading development of a new diagnostic tool that is the ultimate in MacGyver-esque resourcefulness.

Using parts poached from common, inexpensive items — cheap binoculars, dime-store reading glasses, the plastic innards of a hard hat — Warner and a team of engineers are building a scope that doctors in low-income countries can use to detect cervical cancer.

“One in 20 women in Haiti has untreated advanced cervical cancer,” Walmer said. “It’s uncommon in the U.S., but screening is why. It is one of the cancers that screening effectively prevents.”

The colposcope, an optical tool, enables doctors to view the cervix and detect pre-cancerous tissue that can be easily and inexpensively treated before it grows into invasive tumors. The device — basically binoculars and a light mounted on a stand — is not widely available in low-income countries, because it costs thousands of dollars and is not portable.

As a founder of Family Health Ministries, a Christian organization that works to improve women’s and children’s health in Haiti, Walmer found that the desperately poor residents of the island country had limited access to medical care. Women die of cervical cancer because they so seldom get to a doctor’s office where the early lesions could easily be detected.

More than 10 years ago, he decided to come up with an inexpensive scope that doctors could use anywhere — in clinics or remote villages. He felt that if doctors could afford the tools and carry them to patients, more women could be diagnosed and treated.

So in 1997, he built his first portable colposcope — a battery-powered, head-mounted binocular fashioned from surgical glasses, a bicycle halogen head light and a green camera filter.

A second generation improved the lighting but wasn’t well received by doctors in the field.

“It was heavy on the nose and uncomfortable,” Walmer said.

So, he tried again.

This time, he had help from Duke engineering students who took up the project as part of the CURES design contest. Their version was lighter, more durable and the lenses had greater magnification.

The students won the competition and the $100,000 prize, which enabled them to hire a design firm to build prototypes and start a business plan to sell the CerviScopes around the world for less than $300.

Now, Walmer is working with engineers at Applied Technologies Inc., a small firm in Cary that has designed a variety of industrial and medical products. Richard Daniels, the project engineer, has been tinkering with the basic model and is now assembling 10 prototype scopes with items the team has gathered from ordinary sources.

To keep costs low, they use $10 binoculars mounted onto the plastic headgear stripped from $16 hard hats. The optics are altered with lenses cut from $2 reading glasses. Daniels and students at N.C. State University, working for community service credit, solder the wiring to a battery pack that is mounted on the side of the head gear.

Walmer hopes the prototypes will spur enough interest so he can gear up production to make hundreds, perhaps thousands that could be shipped to doctors in Haiti and other low-income countries.

In addition, Family Health Ministries is working to raise money for a medical center in Haiti where women will be able to get regular cervical cancer screenings. A fundraising event will be held tonight at 6 at the Fuqua School of Business on the Duke University campus.

Please send Ms Avery’s a thank you email if you appreciated her reporting on this important Women’s Health initiative. or call 919-829-4882

The Mission of Family Health Ministries (FHM) is supporting international communities in their efforts to build and sustain healthy families

Family Health Ministries (FHM) is a multi-ethnic, Christian nonprofit organization dedicated to developing long-term relationships with underserved individuals, families and communities to help themselves in culturally-relevant ways.

Currently FHM supports programs in maternal and child health, nutrition, education and church development in Haiti and other underserved communities.

FHM’s vision is create a better tomorrow by building healthy families and healthy communities.
If you would like to support FHM’s work in Haiti, click here:

To read full story and other related topics please go to The News & Observer Online Edition


Author: H. Sandra Chevalier-Batik

I started the Inconvenient Woman Blog in 2007, and am the product of a long line of inconvenient women. The matriarchal line is French-Canadian, Roman Catholic, with a very feisty Irish great-grandmother thrown in for sheer bloody mindedness. I am a research analyst and author who has made her living studying technical data, and developing articles, training materials, books and web content. Tracking through statistical data, and oblique cross-references to find the relevant connections that identifies a problem, or explains a path of action, is my passion. I love clearly delineating the magic questions of knowledge: Who, What, Why, When, Where and for How Much, Paid to Whom. My life lessons: listen carefully, question with boldness, and personally verify the answers. I look at America through the appreciative eyes of an immigrant, and an amateur historian; the popular and political culture is a ceaseless fascination. I have no impressive initials after my name. I’m merely an observer and a chronicler, an inconvenient woman who asks questions, and sometimes encourages others to look at things differently.