This year, May 11th, 2015, is designated as National Women’s Check-up Day, part of National Women’s Health Week — a national awareness campaign from May 10-16 focusing on the importance of incorporating simple preventive and positive health behaviors into everyday life.
One of the issues given major emphasis during this year’s Health Week is the importance of getting regular screenings for cervical cancer with a Pap smear. It’s a simple, in-office test during which the woman’s doctor collects a sample of cells from her cervix and sends the sample to a lab to be examined for abnormalities.
“Despite the simplicity of the screening procedure, a recent CDC report published in the November 2014 issue of Vital Signs revealed 8 million American women who are at risk for developing cervical cancer have not had a Pap smear within the past five years, and many have never had this test,” said Kim Stebbings, U.S. President of DySIS Medical. “The CDC’s report encourages doctors, nurses and health systems to use all medical visits as an opportunity to educate women about cervical cancer screening.”
Stebbings, whose company manufactures a computer-assisted cervical examination system called DySIS, said it’s easy to understand why so many women fail to go in for their recommended screenings.
“Lack of health insurance has been a factor for some, but even in cases where insurance is not an issue, undergoing a gynecological examination and a Pap smear isn’t a very pleasant experience,” Stebbings said.
An abnormal Pap smear does not mean cancer is present; it merely signals a closer examination of the cervix is needed to determine the exact nature of the abnormal cells and how best to treat them – or whether to treat them at all, she said. This more detailed cervical examination is called a colposcopy, during which the physician studies the cervix through a magnification device known as a colposcope.
“During a colposcopy, the doctor applies a solution to the woman’s cervix, which whitens those tissues that may be abnormal,” Stebbings said. “The whitened tissues are then biopsied by the physician to determine whether they need to be treated or left alone to be re-evaluated in a future examination.”
The colposcopy procedure, which hasn’t changed since the 1930s, was recently updated and enhanced for both patients and physicians by the introduction of a computer-assisted digital imaging system called the DySIS Colposcope, which photographs and displays a high-resolution, colorized image of the patient’s cervix on a high-definition touch screen for easy viewing and analysis.
Clinically proven in multi-center trials and gaining acceptance as the new standard of care for cervical examinations following abnormal Pap smears, the cutting-edge DySIS Colposcope produces a DySISmap, which is like a weather map showing the precise areas of the cervix where tissue whitening is the most intense. The DySISmap, which can be digitally saved and used in future examinations as a reference for evaluating cervical changes, provides valuable information for the physician when deciding which areas of the cervix need to be further examined with biopsies.
Stebbings said many physicians using the DySIS Colposcope in their clinics report the device has assisted in fine-tuning their biopsy selection and has helped prevent unnecessary procedures, which gives both patients and physicians confidence in the care being provided.
“Since 90 to 95 percent of colposcopy exams are negative, it is also much easier for doctors to reassure their patients with the DySIS Colposcope. Patients are able to view what the doctor is seeing in real-time and discuss the meaning of the colors on the DySISmap,” Stebbings said. “This enables the patients to be involved in the diagnostic process – putting them more at ease.”
“When we are trying to encourage women to come in for that very important first screening, anything we can do to lower the stress factor and educate them on what’s being done during the follow up examination process is of tremendous value,” said Stebbings.