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Light the Way

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WSVN -- Like many women, 31-year-old Gail Soares didn't always get regular pap smears.

Gail Soares: "It's uncomfortable, as every woman knows, and you keep putting it off until something happens that gives you a reason to go there."

For Gail, that reason came when she found out she was pregnant with her first child.

Gail Soares: "I went to see my doctor to confirm my pregnancy and go through the routine of taking all the tests."

But the excitement of having a baby soon turned to panic. Gail's tests showed she had cervical cancer, and doctors said she might have to terminate her pregnancy.

Gail Soares: "I sat down a lot, thinking if I had just went to do my normal check-up, I wouldn't have reached the point I've reached now."

Researchers are trying to find easier ways to detect cervical cancer earlier. And now, there's a new device being studied at the UM Miller School of Medicine called "LightTouch" that could do just that.

Dr. Nahida Chakhtoura, UM Miller School of Medicine: "The LightTouch device is a way of evaluating the cervix and giving you an answer right then and there."

Unlike a pap smear, it does not require an uncomfortable tissue sample; the LightTouch device is simply pressed against the woman's cervix. It has a camera and a monitor, so you can actually see the cervix during the exam.

Dr. Nahida Chakhtoura: "It's a better visual of the cervix."

During the exam, the device uses light to help detect abnormal or pre-cancerous cells.

Dr. Nahida Chakhtoura: "The device itself will actually evaluate specific points beyond what we can see to the level of where the disease starts."

It creates an image of the cervix for the doctor that highlights the location and severity of disease. And what's really great: patients get instant results.

Dr. Nahida Chakhtoura: "We can tell them, 'There is nothing to worry about' or, "Yes, there is something to be concerned about.'"

And so far, it's showing big promise in detecting cancer early.

Dr. Nahida Chakhtoura: "It showed good results, in the sense that it picked up disease that a pap or the traditional screening missed."

It's been a long road for Gail. She was fortunate enough to be able to get treatment for the cancer during her pregnancy.

Gail Soares: "I got to do a cone biopsy. At three months, it took out the bulk of the cancer, and then at 34 weeks, we were able to do a C-section and the hysterectomy right after. I was able to have my baby. That was the happiest day of my life."

But she still had to pay a high price for not getting screened regularly.

Gail Soares: "If I had just taken the time to follow up with my pap smears, I would still be able to have another child, a sister or brother for Gabriel."

Diana Diaz: "LightTouch is now awaiting FDA approval. The hope is that it will be used along with pap smears for earlier detection."


Guided Therapeutics'

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