Cervical cancer

Cervical cancer worldwide

After breast cancer, cervical cancer is the most common cancer in women under 45. More than 500,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year. About half of these women die as a result of the disease. This while cervical cancer is preventable and 100% curable if the symptoms are diagnosed and treated in time.

How cervical cancer develops

Cervical cancer is caused by the HPV virus. This virus can enter the cells of the cervix, causing abnormal cells to develop. When these abnormal cells develop into cancer cells and can grow, this is called cervical cancer.

Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)

HPV infection is the most common Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) worldwide, affecting about 80% of all people at some point. HPV lives on the skin, including around the genitals. It can be transmitted through skin-to-skin contact. Therefore, every woman who is sexually active is at risk of becoming infected with HPV. Most people do not notice symptoms and pass it on to others without realising it.

Not every HPV infection leads to cervical cancer. There are about 100 known types of HPV, which are divided into a low-risk and a high-risk group. Only the high-risk HPV types can cause cervical cancer.

Treatment of cervical cancer and HPV

In the Netherlands, more and more young girls are having themselves vaccinated with the HPV vaccine before their first sexual contact. After three vaccinations they are protected against a large proportion of HPV viruses for many years.

There is no cure for HPV. Therefore, it is important to detect these HPV-caused abnormalities at an early stage and to be able to intervene in time. In the Netherlands, the abnormalities are currently detected by means of a smear test, for which women are called up every five years.

In contrast to women in the Netherlands, women in developing countries usually have no access to care, let alone to any programmes for the prevention of cervical cancer. That is why the Female Cancer Foundation applies the See & Treat method.

Eva Jinek, Jennifer Hoffman and gynaecologist Jogchum Beltman

LINDA.nl asked Eva Jinek and Jennifer Hoffman, both ambassadors of the Female Cancer Foundation, how the vinegar method works exactly. See their reaction here. With a few drops of vinegar, women can be tested preventively for cervical cancer.

In addition, gynaecologist Jogchum Beltman from Leiden University Medical Centre, specialised in gynaecological oncology and a board member of the Female Cancer Foundation, was interviewed by LINDA.nl about how to detect cervical cancer with vinegar and also about the procedure in the Netherlands, the report of which can be found below. 


Eva explains: "With a cotton swab with a few drops of normal vinegar, you can touch the cervix. If the tissue discolors, there are suspicious cells". And as simple as those cells can be detected, they can be eradicated: "By having the cervix treated by strong heating, the tissue dies. Those cells then never return. Yes: it sounds like a fairy tale. But this method can save lives."

Pap smear cervical cancer 

When Eva herself heard about the effect of vinegar, she "couldn't believe that this is not common knowledge". The same goes for Jennifer: "It's crazy how easy cervical cancer is to detect. Sometimes I almost doubt myself. Then I look up exactly how it works. In the Netherlands, all women between the ages of 30 and 60 receive a call from their GP to come and have a cervical smear taken, but in developing countries there is no such luxury. "That's why we want to spread this knowledge in poorer countries," Eva explains.


"It is currently the only cancer in the world that can be completely eradicated," says Eva. "With other types of cancer, we can do a lot these days, but there is no real cure. Jennifer: "With the knowledge we have about cervical cancer, it is maddening to think that it still exists.

No priority 

Gynaecologist and oncologist Lex Peters (founder of the Female Cancer Foundation) - argues that if cervical cancer had been a male disease, it would have been eradicated long ago. Eva: "In many countries, the fight against cervical cancer is not at the top of the priority list because it does not affect men. At the same time, women in those countries are often the mainstay of the entire household or village: if they are torn away, the consequences are enormous. The care for children, for example, cannot simply be taken over by the father: he has to work to pay for them. If the village elders or midwives in such places know the vinegar method, they become self-sufficient in fighting cervical cancer."

Pap smear: never skip it

Jennifer also has a personal attachment to the cause. "I had a positive result twice after my smear test. I did panic for a moment because the doctor gave me very heavy news, but it's actually nothing to be alarmed about: you're just in time. The doctor checks how deep the bad cells are and then removes them. Eva adds: "That is why you should not think: I am still young, or I am busy, so I will skip the smear test for once. It is a very small effort that gives you a lot of security."

Differences from the Netherlands and developing countries

Gynaecologist Jogchum Beltman from Leiden University Medical Centre, specialised in gynaecological oncology and a board member of the Female Cancer Foundation, was interviewed by LINDA.nl about how to detect cervical cancer using vinegar. Here is the report of this interview.

1. Detecting cervical cancer with supermarket vinegar. Is that really possible?

Dr Beltman: "It is important to know that vinegar can mainly detect an early stage of cancer and not the cancer itself. There is a big difference between the research method in developing countries and in rich countries like the Netherlands.

1. In the Netherlands, women aged 30 and over are called in every five years to have a smear test done by their GP. The smear is examined in a laboratory and if everything is OK, you will hear nothing more about it afterwards. If there are any abnormalities, you will be referred to a gynaecologist. It is important to note that an abnormal smear does not necessarily mean that you have cancer. In most cases, it does not.

2. The gynaecologist soaks a cotton wool in vinegar - it is indeed just the vinegar you can buy in the shops - and applies it to the cervix. They then use a magnifying glass to look for any tissue that glows white, as these are restless cells. Depending on how intense the colour is, you can see how restless it is.

3. Then a biopsy is taken. This goes to a lab again, where it is checked whether there are really any restless cells or cancer cells in the tissue.

4. If no cancer is found, it may be necessary to cut away restless tissue with an electric knife. Six months after the operation, another smear is taken to check that all the restless cells have gone. If cancer is found, you will enter a completely new process in which we consider the best treatment for you.

In developing countries, unfortunately, many of these steps are impossible. There we go to women in remote areas who have poor access to care. With them, we cannot take a smear as in step 1, but immediately do the "vinegar test. When tissue glows white, it is often not possible to take a biopsy, due to lack of laboratories in these countries. Then we immediately proceed to treatment. Here we treat the tissue with strong heating (thermocoagulation). This way wrong cells are killed. Unfortunately, it is often impossible to test the women again after six months, but research shows that we can save very many women from death with this one-time form of treatment."

2. Some readers feel that the campaign makes it seem as if you can buy a bottle of vinegar and use it to test yourself for cervical cancer. bottle of vinegar and use it to test yourself for cervical cancer. So that is not true?

"No, definitely not. It is not only physically impossible to look into the cervix yourself, you also need a magnifying glass and above all knowledge to be able to see it. This is not about women in the Netherlands, but about women in developing countries. With this campaign we want to show that you can save lives with the help of a very cheap tool."

3. Could we also go to the family doctor or gynaecologist to test for cervical cancer?

"I want to make it clear that there is no need to get scared after this explanation. Women from the age of 30 have a smear test every five years and more or earlier is not necessary. There are of course women who get cervical cancer before the age of 30, but this is fortunately rare. In addition, in 97 per cent of cases, the cervical cancer precursor is simply eliminated by the body. If you constantly take smears, you take more risk than benefit. You also subject women to unnecessary treatments to the cervix while they are still in their fertile age with possible consequences for later pregnancies."

If you want to know more about the procedure around cervical cancer in the Netherlands, see this site