Close to 200,000 women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer this year, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Many of those cases could have been prevented had patients had access to improved screening for the human papillomavirus.
IU Health has invested in two devices which will process pap smear specimens in greater numbers. That device is called the automated pap processing instrument. The second device, called the Roche-cobas will screen the specimens and give doctors the most information on HPV, if it’s detected.
“What we’ve figured out, incorporating this new technology is, you used to have patients with a normal pap results,” says Melissa Randolph, with IU Health. “They would go off for three to five years and not think much about their health. In the meantime, by testing for the HPV virus and then finding they may have the highest risk type, it puts them into a different risk category. And they need to be followed more often."
Young women, ages 21 to 29 should come for a pap test every three years. Women 30 to 65 years old need a pap even less frequently every three to five years, depending on their risk factor.
“What IU Health is doing is a little bit different,” says Randolph. “We’re taking a lot of guesswork out of that physician’s diagnosis and providing him or her with what’s medically necessary to help patients and give them the most information that is possible all in the same visit and at the lowest cost we can.”
Seventy percent of the population carries hpv. If women have a healthy immune system, they are likely to eradicate it anyway. but if patients have a persistent HPV infection, doctors need to keep an eye on the dangerous strains: 16 and 18 to keep the patient safe.
These new devices, especially the cobas give doctors at IU Health the opportunity to catch early cervical cancers faster and with less stress on the patient.