How have cervical cancer rates and screening needs impacted what the profession looks like today?
Cytology - as a field and as screening tools in the laboratory - is an important line of defense in cancer prevention and helps inform diagnostic care through the expert analysis of a cytologist. As an example, the Pap test and its widespread adoption into cervical cancer screening led to a historic reduction in cervical cancer incidence and mortality rates, highlighting cytologists' role in women’s health. However, we are seeing declining screening rates, compounding racial and economic disparities within the patient population, and an increase in late-stage cervical cancer incidence rates. We know co-testing, screening with the Pap test and HPV together, provides the best protection against cervical cancer and these troubling trends reinforce the ever-present need for cytology and innovation in screening technology.
What are some of the barriers and challenges that exist for today’s cytologists?
I’m proud to work in a field that has positively impacted women’s health. Liquid-based cytology and imaging innovation helped cytology laboratories improve efficiency and accuracy. Still, cervical cytology screening can be laborious, entailing the review of thousands of cells on cytology specimens through a microscope to carefully identify abnormal cells. Now more than ever, it is important to arm the modern cytologist with the latest technology to meet the rising demand for life-saving cervical cancer screening.
How are today’s technological advancements positively affecting the field of cytology?
Cytology is standing on the precipice of yet another evolution in technology to advance the profession. Advanced digital cytology imaging and artificial intelligence technology for cervical cancer screening is already approved for use in Europe with potential for application in the US.
AI and digitization of cytology slides present opportunities to save cytologists a significant amount of time by creating a streamlined laboratory workflow and a more-informed path to diagnosis to move the whole field of digital diagnostics and AI forward and into standard practice. By investing in technology, we can address barriers to care and make cervical cancer elimination a reality.
How is Hologic meeting the need for improved screening and early-stage medical interventions through cytology?
It’s exciting to work for a company that has a legacy of commitment and innovation in the field of cytology. From developing ground-breaking technology—like the first FDA-approved liquid-based cytology, the ThinPrep® Imaging System, and now, digital cytology in Europe—to providing more than three decades of educational support to the profession, Hologic has been at the forefront of innovation in women’s health and cytology.
We have also worked closely with organizations to collaborate on how to introduce new technologies and train laboratory professionals. Hologic is proud to offer free educational resources including CytologyStuff.com and DigitalCytologyEducation.com, and continuing medical education certifications. Hologic’s digital cytology education website offers a unique opportunity for education in cytology from virtually any location.