IU Health welcomes state-of-the-art equipment to screen for cervical cancer

A lab technician works to process pap test samples in the IU Health Pathology Lab. (WISH Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — IU Health is welcoming two state-of-the-art pieces of equipment in hopes of fighting cervical cancer in patients. The second of those two machines arrived just this month, which also happens to be Cervical Cancer Awareness Month.

Daybreak’s Nina Criscuolo got a behind-the-scenes look at it in the IU Health Pathology Lab. Leaders there say it means a lot more information for women, with just one standard screening.

Doctors say cervical cancer is preventable and about 70 percent of cases are caused by high-risk strains of HPV or human papillomavirus. The new machine at IU Health nicknamed Bam Bam, was the first in the country. Now the only other place with one is Yale University. It allows IU Health to streamline the three-part cervical cancer screening process.

Women can now get a typical annual pap-smear and, without any additional requests or screening from their doctor, receive a pap test result, know their current HPV status, and find out if they carry a high-risk HPV strain through genotyping.

“We wanted to be cognizant of the time that patients spend at the physician’s office. We want to make sure the physicians are seeing the patients that really need the follow-up and the people that maybe are ok to a longer screening interval, can do that safely,” Melissa Randolph, cyopathology supervisor for IU Health, said.

Randolph said this streamlined screening process allows doctors to more closely monitor women with this high-risk strains of HPV, who may have fallen through the cracks in the past. Once informed about the high-risk strain present, doctors can immediately take preventative measures and improve detection of pre- and early cancer changes.

The machine also helps the staff at IU Health work much more efficiently. Bam Bam’s partner machine, which arrived last year, is an automated pap processor, which creates the slides from samples. That used to have to be done manually, which could take hours for each sample.

Doctors do still recommend vaccination to avoid HPV and in turn prevent cervical cancer. They also say smoking will increase your risk, especially if you carry one of those high-risk strains of HPV, so just another reason for women to quit smoking.