Cervical cancer screening in low-resource settings: a smartphone image application as an alternative to colposcopy

Int J Womens Health. 2017 Jun 22;9:455-461. doi: 10.2147/IJWH.S136351. eCollection 2017.


Background: Visual inspection after application of acetic acid (VIA) and Lugol's iodine (VILI) is a cervical cancer (CC) screening approach that has recently been adopted in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC). Innovative technologies allow the acquisition of consecutive cervical images of VIA and VILI using a smartphone application. The aim of this study was to evaluate the quality of smartphone images in order to assess the feasibility and usability of a mobile application for CC screening in LMIC.

Methods: Between May and November 2015, women aged 30-65 years were recruited in a CC screening campaign in Madagascar. Human papillomavirus-positive women were invited to undergo VIA/VILI assessment. Pictures of their cervix were taken using a Samsung Galaxy S5 with an application called "Exam", which was designed to obtain high-quality images and to classify them in the following sequence: native, VIA, VILI and posttreatment. Experts in colposcopy were asked to evaluate if the quality of the pictures was sufficient to establish the diagnosis and to assess sharpness, focus and zoom.

Results: The application use was simple and intuitive, and 208 pictures were automatically classified and recorded in the patient's file. The quality was judged as adequate for diagnosis in 93.3% of cases. The interobserver agreement was κ =0.45 (0.23-0.58), corresponding to a moderate agreement on the common scale of kappa values.

Conclusion: This smartphone application allows the acquisition of good quality images for VIA/VILI diagnosis. The classification of images in a patient database makes them accessible to on- and off-site experts, and allows continuous clinical education. Smartphone applications may offer an alternative to colposcopy for CC screening in LMIC.

Keywords: HPV; cervical cancer screening; human papillomavirus; mobile health; smartphone; visual approach.