Obstetrical & gynecological survey

Performance of visual inspection with acetic acid for cervical cancer screening: a qualitative summary of evidence to date.

PMID 12886165


Developing countries often lack the necessary resources to use the Papanicolaou (Pap) smear as a screening tool for cervical abnormalities. Because the burden of cervical cancer is highest in such low-resource settings, alternative techniques have been sought. Recently, interest in visual inspection with acetic acid (VIA) has increased. Numerous studies have been conducted on its accuracy and its ability to detect cervical lesions when compared with other techniques, both conventional and nonconventional. This review summarizes key findings from the literature to provide researchers and policymakers with an up-to-date summary on VIA. PubMed was used to identify relevant journal articles published between 1982 and 2002. Key words were cervical cancer screening, visual inspection, VIA (visual inspection with acetic acid), DVI (direct visual inspection), AAT (acetic acid test), and cervicoscopy. Studies were eligible for review only if they involved analysis of primary VIA data (ie, not review articles); studies involving magnification devices were excluded. Fifteen studies were reviewed in total; key results were extracted and a summary analysis was performed for sensitivity and specificity parameters. When reported, sensitivity ranged between 66% and 96% and specificity between 64% and 98%. Authors comparing VIA with cytology noted that the overall usefulness of VIA compares favorably with that of the Pap test. The reported findings reviewed here suggest that VIA has the potential to be a cervical cancer screening tool, especially in low resource settings. Obstetricians & Gynecologists, Family Physicians. After completion of this article, the reader will be able to describe how visual inspection of the cervix for cervical cancer screening (VIA) is performed, to summarize the current literature on VIA, and to list potential advantages of VIA.