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'Smart Tampon': JHU graduates create new A.I. application to test for cervical cancer

'Smart Tampon': JHU graduates create new A.I. application to test for cervical cancer
'Smart Tampon': JHU graduates create new A.I. application to test for cervical cancer 02:43

BALTIMORE - Recent Johns Hopkins University graduates just made a huge stride that could help protect more women from cervical cancer using advanced technology.

January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month. The disease kills 4,000 people with cervixes each year in the U.S.

But this group of students that graduated from the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School may have come up with an artificial intelligence application that could help save those lives.

It's called the "Smart Tampon."

It would replace a regular pap smear which tests for cancer, but can often be uncomfortable.

It would instead detect the disease using artificial intelligence. 

Madeleine Howard and Hayley Hoaglund created the concept.

"We thought this idea was maybe a little out there," said Howard, MPH/MBA, concept co-creator of the project.

The students invented a device that could save thousands of lives with a simple test.

"It's effectively accomplishing the same goal as does a pap smear," Howard said.

In their required artificial intelligence course lab, they came up with the idea of a smart tampon, which looks and feels like a tampon, but at its top, there's a highly sensitive camera that takes images of the cervix to screen for cancer. 

"It would compare your cervix cells with abnormal cervix cells and be able to assess if you have any irregularities and prompt you to visit a doctor if needed," said Hoaglund, MPH/MBA, concept co-creator

Cervical cancer is a disease that is preventable if caught early.

Typically, doctors say pap smears are required every three years, but between work, anxiety, discomfort or potential costs, - many women skip it. 

"It begs the question why and is there something that we could be doing better to keep that from happening?" Howard said. 

Their invention gained attention from students and the support from their professor. 

"The idea of this is if you cannot come to the screening, the screening can come to you," said Professor Tinglong Dai, PhD, Professor at Johns Hopkins Carey Business School. 

It's a quick screening that could create vast health care accessibility with lasting impacts.

"You can really perform your own screening in the comfort of your own home. That is easily accessible and affordable," Hoaglund said.

Pathologists were consulted as Maddie and Hayley worked on this project.

The pair said their goal is to attract investors so they can get the "Smart Tampon" to market, put it on the shelves and make sure it's available and affordable to anyone who needs a test. 

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