Earlier this month, I traveled to visit the cervical cancer screening program at Klinik Manitane in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Implemented in collaboration with Basic Health International (BHI) and St. Luc Fondation, the program has screened women for cervical cancer and pre-cancerous lesions using Visual Inspection with Acetic Acid (VIA) since 2013.
VIA offers a low cost alternative to cervical cancer screening in areas where screening with Paps is not feasible due to resource and infrastructure limitations. In this setting, treatment for pre-cancerous lesions is done by freezing the affected cells with compressed nitrous oxide gas, a procedure that can be done in less than 15 minutes without anesthesia at the time of the screening visit.
This trip was more exciting than most as we were also accompanied by Dr. Michael Haas of CryoPen, Inc. Dr. Haas developed the CryoPen® Surgical System using a state-of-the-art, linear compression cooling technology that eliminates the need for cryogenic gases like nitrous oxide. In Haiti, nitrous oxide gas is not always available, and with variable pricing from month to month (depending on availability) it has made planning for programmatic costs and patient visits challenging – so we were very eager to see the CryoPen® in action!
Dr. Haas traveled to Haiti with the intention of donating a CryoPen® unit to the program, and so a two-day training was scheduled with the health providers at St. Luc who are responsible for cervical cancer screening at Klinik Manitane. Led by Dr. Haas and Dr. Rachel Masch from BHI, training included instruction and technical practice with simulation models, followed by a full day of practical training at the screening clinic.
After putting the technology through its paces in the real world setting of the clinic, it was decided that the CryoPen® would become the first choice device for treatment, and the nitrous oxide cryoguns would be reserved as back-ups. Through the use of this technology we can expect cost savings from not having the renewable costs associated with the nitrous oxide purchase. These savings can be redirected to other programmatic activities.
More importantly, the technology means that every eligible woman who needs treatment will be assured of that at the time of the screening visit, minimizing the instances that women must be rescheduled and required to return for a second visit.
Direct Relief is grateful to Dr. Haas for his interest in the program and for the valuable technical assistance he offers the program by donating a game-changing technology.