A prototype of the speculum-free “pocket colposcope” being developed by Duke University produces images on a smart phone or laptop and can make cervical cancer screening more accessible to women living in low-resource areas. (Credit: Duke University)

Researchers have developed a handheld device for cervical cancer screening that promises to do away with uncomfortable speculums and high-cost colposcopes. The “pocket colposcope” is a slender wand that can connect to many devices, including laptops or cell phones.

If widely adopted, women might even use the device to self-screen, transforming screening and cure rates in low-income countries and regions of the United States, where cervical cancer is most prevalent.

The all-in-one device has lights and a camera at one end. Health providers — or even women themselves — can capture images of the cervix using the rounded tip of the device to manipulate its position if necessary. The device also includes a channel through which contrast agents used for the cervical cancer screening procedure can be applied.

They are now working on clinical trials to see how their design stacks up against the traditional colposcopy used with a speculum. By using both methods to visualize the cervix, the researchers will be able to make a direct comparison. They are also working to automate the screening process, hoping to shift the task to midwives, community health workers, and even the women themselves.