Colposcopic Examination With Polarized Light Can Improve Cervical Cancer Diagnosis
A team of researchers conducted a study according to which polarized light can improve the ability to detect precursory lesions of cervical cancer. With this findings they hope to reduce the number of unnecessary biopsies and surgical procedures, as this type of light is more focused than radial light which scatters in all directions.
If the result of a Pap smear is abnormal, then the therapeutic approach requires a colposcopic exam (with radial light and magnification of the area) to view whether the cervix presents suspicious lesions. If suspicious lesions are present on the cervix, those areas are biopsied.
With this study, the researchers are trying to determine if a colposcopic exam which is using polarized light has a higher ability to detect precancerous lesions of the cervix and if this examination can reduce the number of unnecessary biopsies and the patient’s discomfort.
“Using both types of light to examine the cervix may give us additional perspective so we can find more disease and avoid treating something that does not need it”, said Dr. Daron G. Ferris, colposcopist, family medicine physician and Director of the Gynecologic Cancer Prevention Center at Georgia Health Sciences University.
In this study, 300 women were included with an age over 18 years . First, the researchers performed a classic colposcopic exam (with radial light and magnification) and marked the areas that looked suspicious. After this exam, they did a colposcopic exam with polarized light to see if the results of both examination correlate before a biopsy is performed. “If we use polarized light, how does that change what we can see?”, Dr. Ferris said.
Colposcopic exam with polarized light can be most effective in young women, because in this cases the normal immature cells are more difficult to be distinguished from cancerous cells. Because the skin from the surface of the cervix of young women is thin, it could represent an easy target for infection by human papilloma virus, which is one of the primary causal agent of cervical cancer.
“If polarized light eliminates cases where it’s not clear whether the area is worrisome or not, that is going to reduce the number of biopsies. We want to see if it adds value.”, said Dr. Farris. Another problem of diagnosis is represented by the fact that, sometimes, biopsies are misinterpreted, leading to unnecessary surgical procedures.
Polarized light, because is focusing its energy in one direction, can help the physicians to have a better look on a cervix examination and to detect with greater accuracy areas that look suspicious. In those areas, blood vessels are dilated and randomly distributed. With a normal colposcopic exam, a physician is only looking at the superficial blood vessels, but on a colposcopic exam with polarized light, he can see 1 millimeter below the surface of the cervix.
This study was performed due to the physician’s dissatisfaction regarding classic colposcopic exam that can miss a diagnosis of precancerous lesions. Researchers now hope that this new colposcopic examination with polarized light will make the diagnosis of precancerous lesions more accurate than before.