Cervical carcinoma is one of the most common forms of cancer in women. Screening involves taking cell specimens from the outer opening of the cervix and examining them under the microscope. The analysis is performed mainly by specialized cytological laboratories. The quality of the diagnosis depends on the quality of the preparation and experience of the lab personnel, not to mention that microscopic examinations are extremely tiring for the lab staff.
The special problem with these analyses is that so-called pap (Papanicolaou) smears have a 10 to 15 percent false-negative / false-positive rate, meaning tumor cells go undetected or normal cells are identified as malignant. The chances for early detection and treatment are reduced, leading to considerable emotional stress for patients.