Lighting Up Cervical Cancer

FRESNO, Calif.

Still, if cervical cancer is caught early enough, it's curable 90 percent of the time. Doctors now have a method to boost that percentage even higher.

Take a couple smooches … Toss in some playtime … and little Gabriel is in heaven. Mom Gail Soares named her 20-month-old after the archangel Gabriel. But the news doctors delivered crushed her new mother glow.

"And all of a sudden that crashes when you go to your first doctor's appointment, and they tell you that you have abnormal cells," Soares told Ivanhoe.

Soares had cervical cancer. Tissue lining the inch-long canal on the lower end of her uterus was under attack. More than 11,000 women were diagnosed last year alone, with more than 4,000 deaths.

But doctors say the light touch machine could curb those numbers. It detects abnormal cells before cancer evolves by scanning skin tissue with light waves. And while typical Pap smear tests take 2-to-3 weeks in a lab, the light touch takes about one minute.

"Once we screen the patient, we can see the same image here as on the monitor," Nahida Chakhtoura, MD an assistant professor of OB/GYN at the University of Miami Miler School of Medicine in Miami, Fla., explained.

"If you could find out right away, without all that uncomfortableness, I think more women would go out and get that test," Soares said.

To save her life, Soares gave birth to Gabriel early then had a hysterectomy.

"You know, if I never found out I was pregnant, then I would've never found out I had the cancer, and he wouldn't be here right now," Soares recalled.

She's now in remission. They say once you beat cancer, you're always vigilant. Good thing she has her little angel around to keep her focused.

The light touch machine has just completed the third, and final, phase of clinical trials. Previous studies have shown the machine could reduce the number of unnecessary follow-up procedures due to false-positive pap tests by up to 55 percent.

That translates to a potential $181,000,000 per-year savings to the United States health care system.

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