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18-year-old from Arnold wins award for cervical cancer screening project in developing countries

Posted at 5:57 PM, Aug 22, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-23 11:21:55-04

At the age of 18, Lena Goldstein is already quite the world traveler. 

A few years ago, she took a year-long, medical service trip with her family to work with non-profits in South America and Southeast Asia. 

And an idea was born.

"I was particularly touched and affected by the foundations that worked to improve women's health conditions," she said. "I was wondering why more women in the world hadn't been screened for cervical cancer."

According to the World Health Organization, cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer for women globally and the majority of cases are found in developing countries.

After her trip abroad, Goldstein began reaching out to tech companies, doctors and non-profits to come up with a better protocol to screen women in developing countries. Her first medical brigade deployed to Peru in 2015.

Goldstein partners with existing non-profits in the country to help spread the word when a medical brigade will be in town and educate the women about cervical cancer.

"We want women to not only know that this technology and this protocol can help save their lives, but we also want them to know why cervical cancer exists, what the root of the disease is," she said.

"We want them to be aware of future precautions that should be taken, especially if they test positive for high risk HPV."

Goldstein expanded the project to Cambodia in 2016 and China in 2017.

The teams utilize a "see and treat" method with the women. Women are registered and take a self-swab in the morning. The swabs are run through the Care HPV System, which tests for 14 strains of high-risk HPV. Most cervical cancer cases are caused by HPV.

If someone tests positive for cervical dysplasia (pre-cancer), the woman will be given an exam with a digital colpscope called the Eva System by MobileODT. The device can record images that can be sent to any doctor around the world.

"That's where we're looking for the future. We're looking to explore more fully the huge telemedicine potential that this technology has," Goldstein said.

The goal is to get the results back to the women by the end of the day and meeting with a doctor if necessary. Goldstein said often times women in developing countries will have to wait weeks for the results and can get lost to follow up.

This year, Goldstein was one of 15 recipients of the Diller Teen Tikkun Olam award, which is given to Jewish teens who are making a difference. Goldstein received $36,000 and she hasn't decided yet how she'll be using the money.

Since her project started in 2015, Goldstein says they have screened more than 6,000 women. She's hoping further technological advances will allow her and her teams to screen even more women, while also respecting the cultures and existing practices within each community.

"Global health is not just how can we help the most number of people with new technology in the shortest amount of time, it also has all of these social, religious complexities that can't be ignored."