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Improvements in Pap screenings proposed

Improvements in Pap screenings proposed

A proposal to tighten up cervical cancer proficiency testing should lead to a decrease in the number of false-negative cases that cross the desks of gynecologic oncologists.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has put forth a plan to improve competency testing for pathologists and cytotechnologists who screen Pap tests.

While the proposal does not directly affect treating physicians, it should increase the number of cervical cancer cases that are prevented or that are found in the early stages, commented Carol Brown, MD, chair of the government relations committee for the Society of Gynecologic Oncologists (SGO).

“These changes do potentially benefit the gynecologic oncologist because they should lead to a decrease in the false-negative rate for Pap smears,” Dr. Brown told Oncology News International. Dr. Brown is also the director of the office of diversity programs and an associate attending surgeon, gynecology service, at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York.

The proposed rule updates current regulation of Pap studies under the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments of 1988. The proposed rule doubles the number of slides used during the test to 20, calls for the test to be administered biennially rather than annually, and requires an analysis of trends in Pap test failure. The public comment period for the proposal ends on March 17, 2009.

“Our SGO government relations team has done an initial review of the proposed rule regarding proficiency testing for cytotechnologists and pathologists, and we are supportive of the proposed rule. We are not planning on submitting any changes to this (proposed) rule,” Dr. Brown said.

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