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Published on May 20, 2011

Contact: Joe Schramm
Phone: 800-323-4040, ext 7445
E-mail: media@cap.org

College Of American Pathologists Aims To Further Quality Practices In Gynecologic Cytology Through Consensus Conference

Northfield, IL.—The College of American Pathologists (CAP) will convene a consensus conference to review and advance benchmarks in gynecologic cytology, which includes Pap tests, the most effective cancer screening procedure known to medical science, on June 4 in Rosemont, Illinois.

The conference is part of a collaborative agreement between the CAP and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to perform an “Evaluation of Current Practices in Reporting Gynecologic Cytology Test Results and Cytology Proficiency Testing.” The CAP’s and the CDC’s goal is to develop a consensus quality-practice guideline for quality assurance in gynecologic cytopathology.

Since the Pap test’s introduction after World War II, the death rate from cervical cancer in the United States has decreased more than 70 percent. However, the National Cancer Institute estimated for 2010 that there would be 12,200 new cases and 4,210 deaths would result from cervical cancer.

Over the past several months, 30 cytopathologists and cytotechnologists from across the country reviewed data collected from questionnaires received from 590 laboratories. The CAP will use responses to develop the guidelines.

“The practice of gynecologic cytopathology is challenging and heavily regulated,” said Joseph Tworek, MD, FCAP, the primary author of the CAP-CDC questionnaire, who practices pathology at Saint Joseph Mercy Hospital, Ann Arbor, Michigan. “While the CLIA ’88 regulation mandates many quality assurance measures in gynecologic cytopathology, many unknowns are associated with these measures.”

The CAP and CDC surveyed laboratories for current quality practices in gynecologic cytopathology. The survey results will be used as the basis for the consensus conference that will acknowledge current practices and be a starting point for the development of gynecologic cytopathology quality-practice guidelines.

As a result of the conference, Dr. Tworek said they hope to learn the following:

  • How these measures are routinely used in a quality assurance program.
  • How performance with respect to these measures is monitored.
  • Which measures are helpful and which are not helpful.
  • What challenges and barriers cytopathology laboratories face in maintaining a quality assurance program.

“Since the inception of CLIA ’88, the field of cytopathology has undergone tremendous change,” Dr. Tworek said. “Testing for human papillomavirus, a known cause for cervical cancer, has become routine, and proficiency testing has been implemented. However, the role of these changes in a quality assurance program is not well established.”

“Conferences such as this, with pathologists at the lead, demonstrate the CAP’s commitment to improving outcomes for patients through the establishment of quality assurance guidelines,” said Stephen Bauer, MD, FCAP, CAP President. Dr. Bauer is the Director of Laboratories at Mercy San Juan Medical Center near Sacramento, California. In addition to the survey and conference, an Internet-based discussion forum of the survey results was launched. The Internet discussion site and the conference are open to all cytopathologists and cytotechnologists who wish to comment on their experiences with quality assurance in gynecologic cytopathology.

The College of American Pathologists is a medical society serving more than 17,000 physician members and the laboratory community throughout the world. It is the world’s largest association composed exclusively of board-certified pathologists and is widely considered the leader in laboratory quality assurance. The College is an advocate for high-quality and cost-effective patient care.