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Keywords:

  • Vietnam;
  • war;
  • cervical cancer;
  • developing countries;
  • ethics

Abstract

The Viet/American Cervical Cancer Prevention Project embraces a dual mission. We seek to develop sustainable, cost-effective cervical cancer prevention services for women in Vietnam. Because the problem of cervical cancer in Vietnam is in part a legacy of the Second Indochinese War, we also seek to examine obstacles to reconciliation by presenting what most acknowledge to be a remedy in advance of what some will perceive to be an accusation. Certain research and commercial interests have produced obstacles to our dual mission in Vietnam. The Alliance for Cervical Cancer Prevention, supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, has failed to endorse Pap screening for developing countries and is conducting clinical trials which may further disaffect medically underserved groups. Visual screening techniques combined with immediate ablative treatment methods are incompatible with the requirements of “first do no harm.” Because the Pap smear will probably be a component of any future human papillomavirus (HPV)-based or visual- based screening programs, it serves the interests of those promoting noncytologic screening methods to also support the development of Pap screening services. Research on HPV screening in developing countries raises concerns of commercial exploitation. Because Pap screening is feasible wherever cervical screening is appropriate, it is inappropriate to delay the development of Pap screening services pending research into HPV vaccines or alternative screening technologies. Quality management is the point at which public health and diagnostic pathology intersect and will remain an indispensable element of cervical screening programs irrespective of the screening test(s) eventually used. Pap screening in developing countries is an ethical imperative without a substantial political constituency and will benefit from the engagement of organized cytology. Diagn. Cytopathol. 2005;33:344–351. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.