Regulations abound in the laboratory, be it clinical or cytology. These guidelines oversee all that involves laboratory testing, everything from certification (training and continuing education) and recordkeeping; to work quality (10 percent quality control, 5-year look backs), and screening quantity (slide limits and daily workloads).
Such is the routine of the cytology laboratory that these regulations are intertwined in the course of our daily work. As practitioners, we probably have wondered why all of this exists and how it ever came to be.
Surely patient welfare is the foremost reason; and the ability to provide results that are accurate, precise and timely is a close second. But if we were to step back and look at another side of the profession, we will surely see an equally interesting and compelling rationale for these practices.
Recognizing the Importance
Unlike other cancers that cause pain and other early symptoms, cervical cancer commonly has no telltale symptoms until it is so advanced that it is usually unresponsive to treatment. When Pap screening was first made available, the number of women dying from cervical cancer dropped nearly 75 percent--a figure that clearly places the Pap test to be one the most successful screening tests ever adopted.
The Pap test's impact was so dramatic that it was one of the first screening procedures to be granted coverage under the Medicare law. True to the importance of the test and its immediate significance to women's health, the Pap test for cervical cancer has become even more effective with regulatory changes aimed at ensuring the competency of those conducting the test.