Direct visual inspection for cervical cancer screening: an analysis of factors influencing test performance

Cancer. 2002 Mar 15;94(6):1699-707. doi: 10.1002/cncr.10381.


Background: The authors evaluated direct visual inspection of the cervix after the application of 5% acetic acid (DVI) as a cervical cancer screening test for use in low-resource settings.

Methods: Four tests were used to screen 2754 previously unscreened women: DVI with and without x4.5 magnification and differentiating between all lesions and well-circumscribed lesions; testing for high-risk types of human papillomavirus DNA using the Hybrid Capture II assay, cervical cytology, and Cervicography. Women with positive results on any of the four screening tests were referred for colposcopy and histologic sampling. All women were tested for N. gonorrhea, C. trachomatis, T. vaginalis, and human immunodeficiency virus 1.

Results: Histologically confirmed carcinoma was diagnosed in 21 women (0.8%), high-grade squamous intraepithelial lesions (SILs) were diagnosed in 96 women (3.5%), and low-grade SILs were diagnosed in 102 women (3.7%). The estimated sensitivity of DVI when performed without magnification for high-grade SILs was 70%, with an estimated specificity of 79%. Magnification did not significantly improve sensitivity for high-grade SILs (74% with magnification) but significantly reduced specificity (77%). Restricting the definition of a positive DVI test to a well-defined acetowhite lesion reduced sensitivity and significantly improved specificity. Infection with T. vaginalis, N. gonorrhea, and C. trachomatis did not alter sensitivity or specificity.

Conclusions: This study confirmed the utility of DVI as a primary screening test. Evaluation of the clinical effectiveness of screening with this low-cost and simple test in low-resource settings is necessary.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetic Acid*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / diagnosis*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / pathology
  • Cervical Intraepithelial Neoplasia / diagnosis*
  • Cervical Intraepithelial Neoplasia / pathology
  • Colposcopy
  • DNA, Viral
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening*
  • Middle Aged
  • Observer Variation
  • Papillomavirus Infections / complications
  • Physical Examination
  • Risk Factors
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Tumor Virus Infections / complications
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / pathology
  • Vaginal Smears


  • DNA, Viral
  • Acetic Acid