Apr 18, 2018 | By David

Students at Rice University in Texas have recently made use of 3D printing technology in order to develop a new way to diagnose and treat cervical cancer. Their 3D printed device is modelled after the pelvic region of a woman, and it will enable medical professionals to get training on the different cervical cancer screening and treatment procedures. It will prove particularly helpful for doctors and nurses in areas of the U.S. and further afield where resources are limited, as it is cheap and fast to put together. The device was developed by senior design students Christine Luk, Elizabeth Stone and Rachel Lambert, as well as graduate student Sonia Parra.

We've reported before on the use of 3D printing to help treat cervical cancer, and it's an area that continues to generate interest, as many lives could potentially be saved. Around 300,000 women worldwide die each year from the disease. Approximately 85 percent of these deaths occur in developing countries, as these areas lack access to proper screening measures and ways to treat it. According to Sonia Parra, ''these countries are not able to implement the standard of care... due to the lack of training for providers to learn standard cervical cancer screening and prevention skills needed in order to screen and provide prevention services for the entire population.''

''More than 90 percent of cervical cancer cases are preventable,'' says Elizabeth Stone. ''Prevention is accomplished through screening and, if necessary, treatment. This device is specifically designed so health care providers in developing countries and low-resource regions—many of whom lack gynecological training—learn to screen for and treat cervical cancer.''

The students that created the device are enrolled on Rice’s Global Health Design course. Their project draws on the work of former students as well as current ones, and it is the result of a collaboration between the Rice 360° Institute for Global Health and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

The device consists of a holder, along with a number of different 3D printed cervix models of different types which can be clipped in place for examination. These include healthy cervix models, as well as those with pre-cancerous symptoms and signs of cancer.

The cervix models are made from a special ballistic gel. When dipped in water, they will mimic the appearance of various cancerous lesions. In a clinical setting, doctors would use acetic acid for the same purpose. The models can also be switched around during training to mimic the different conditions that might be encountered in a gynecologist’s office and can be viewed after insertion of the speculum.

Trainees can practice a number of different procedures on the device. These include colposcopy, which is a method of examining the cervix, vagina, and vulva when results of a Pap smear are unusual. It can also be used for practicing cervical biopsies, as well as cryotherapy, which uses freezing gas to destroy pre-cancerous cells on the cervix. Another use for the device is training for loop electrosurgical excision procedures, known as LEEP, during which a small electrical wire loop removes abnormal cells from the cervix.

(source: Rice University)

So far, the students have used their 3D printed device in training clinics in El Salvador as well as the Rio Grande Valley in Texas. They hope to eventually mass-produce the device to get it to more areas in need, and enable other newly trained medical providers to pass on their training as effectively as possible.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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