Cancer Screening: Should Cancer Screening be Essential Component of Primary Health Care in Developing Countries?

Saurabh Bobdey, Ganesh Balasubramanium, Abhinendra Kumar, Aanchal Jain


Background: Cancer is a fatal disease and is on the rise across the globe. In India, breast, cervix and the oral cavity are the leading cancer sites, but, unfortunately, in‑spite of availability of screening tools, there is no organized cancer screening program in India. The main objective of this study was to review the performance of various cancer screening modalities in a resource poor setting.
Methods: MEDLINE and web of science electronic database was searched from January 1990 to December 2013, using keywords such as “breast cancer, cervical cancer, oral cancer and their
corresponding mesh terms were also used in combination with Boolean operators OR, AND.” Two authors independently selected studies published in English and conducted in India. A total of 16 studies was found relevant and eligible for the review. The data on sensitivity and specificity of various screening tool was extracted and analyzed.
Results: Most of the reported screening trails in India are on cervical cancer and few on breast and oral cancer screening. The pooled estimates of sensitivity and specificity of cervical cancer screening test such as visual inspection with acetic acid, magnified visual inspection with acetic acid, visual inspection with Lugol’s iodine, cytology (Papanicolaou smear) and human papillomavirus deoxyribonucleic acid was found to be 68.76% and 84.02%, 63.27% and 85.43%, 81.86% and 87.03%, 63.25% and 93.17% and 75.04% and 91.66%, respectively. Sensitivity and specificity of clinical breast examination was
found to be 94.30% and 94.30%, respectively. Oral cancer screening through visual inspection by trained health care worker was found to have 87.90% sensitivity and 92.05% specificity.
Conclusions: Our study highlights the availability and success of visual screening tools in early detection and mortality reduction of major neoplasia in resource‑poor health care settings and recommends implementation of oral and cervical cancer screening as part of assured primary health care package in developing countries.
Keywords: Breast cancer, cervical cancer, oral cancer, primary health care, screening, visual inspection

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