New scanner could eliminate unnecessary biopsies for women

HALIFAX – A Halifax hospital is the first in the country to obtain a new device that could make hospital visits more comfortable for women.

The LuViva device is a cervical scanner used for women who have an abnormal Pap test.

Dr. James Bentley, the head of gynecology at the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre (QEII), said women who have an abnormal Pap will typically undergo a colposcopy, and often a biopsy is performed.

“We re-examine the woman. We take a history and look at the cervix. We have to put a speculum in to look at the cervix then we put some different solutions on — a vinegar solution, an iodine solution — and we use our experience to see where the abnormal cells are,” he said.

Bentley said the biopsy is needed to see if there are cancerous cells, but it can be uncomfortable and very invasive for women. He said the LuViva device would eliminate unnecessary biopsies.

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The LuViva uses light technology to indicate whether or not abnormal cells are present on the cervix, which helps to determine if a biopsy is needed.

“This will allow us to avoid biopsy in the way we’re [using] it at the present time,” Bentley said. “Hopefully about 50 per cent of those women who have low-grade changes will avoid biopsy.”

Bentley said the machine will allow doctors to focus on women who need the procedure, thereby reducing wait times.

The clinic at the QEII sees about 1,400 patients every year and about 70 per cent have an abnormal Pap test.

Bentley estimates the LuViva could be beneficial for 400 to 500 patients.

Currently the wait time for a high-risk patient is two to six weeks while a low-risk patient may have to wait five to six months.

“That’s one of the advantages of bringing this in,” Bentley said. “We have a long wait time to see these people who are very anxious. They’re waiting for several months to get in to see us.”

He said a decrease in wait time could be achieved by seeing more patients through the use of the new technology, “avoiding biopsies [and] patient discomfort”, and that doing so would “hopefully avoid sub-cost to the system.”
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The machine, which costs $25,000, was donated by the QEII Foundation.

The LuViva was rolled out in the hospital clinic at the end of November and Bentley said the hope is that a full roll-out of the device will take place next year.

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