Celebrating National Cytotechnology Day

Celebrating National Cytotechnology Day

New International ASCP BOC Certification for Cytotechnology to Save Lives

National Cytotechnology Day on May 13 honors cytotechnologists for their contributions to health care, commemorating the birthday of Dr. George N. Papanicolaou who developed the Pap test. This year marks another milestone in promoting life-saving methods for the prevention and detection of cervical cancer. Responding to global healthcare concerns, the ASCP Board of Certification (BOC) recently announced the new International Technologist in Gynecologic Cytology, CTgyn(ASCPi), examination for professional certification.

“In many areas and countries of the world, cervical cancer is the number one cancer killer of women due to a lack of access to Pap testing, as well as a deficiency in qualified individuals that are critical to the analysis and performance of the Pap test,” said Mark H. Stoler, MD, FASCP, Immediate Past President of ASCP, Professor of Pathology, Cytology, and Gynecology, and Associate Director of Surgical Pathology and Cytopathology at the University of Virginia Health System, Charlottesville, Va.

“ASCP is committed to reducing the often devastating patient and family burden associated with this highly preventable cancer by providing a new international certification dedicated to measuring the competency of individuals educated and trained solely in interpretation of Pap tests. Such an ASCP credential will help ensure that patients receive the best possible medical care while allowing our physician partners across the world to feel confident in their patients’ laboratory results.”

Jennifer Young, CT(ASCP)CM, who works in the Indianapolis office of ASCP, leads the ASCP BOC appointed International Ambassadors to ensure the new ASCP international cytotechnology certification gains traction in the international healthcare community.

“We are still learning about the scope of practice on a global scale,” said Ms. Young, Senior Manager, International Certification at ASCP BOC. “Some developing countries are designing a screening program for cervical cancer often to a targeted population of high-risk women between the ages of 35 to 40,” “Other countries want to start an HPV [human papillomavirus] vaccination program for girls and younger women to prevent cervical cancer. That is the best solution, but both options can be difficult to deliver in places with a different infrastructure than the United States and limited financial resources. We believe individuals in those countries who achieve the CTgyn(ASCPi) certification can perform prevention and screenings that save women’s lives.”

Through the past five decades in the United States, cytotechnologists have saved millions of women’s lives. Cervical cancer used to be the No. 1 cause of cancer deaths for women. Between 1955 and 1992, the cervical cancer death rate declined by 70 percent in the U.S.—a decrease directly attributable to the Pap test, now considered the most effective cancer screening of any kind.

“Cytotechnologists and cytopathologists are integral to diagnosing disease at its earliest stages either ‘preventing’ cancer or detecting it early, so patients can receive appropriate treatment,” said Leonard Bloom, CT(ASCP), member of the ASC Public Affairs Committee and Education Coordinator for the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Cytotechnology Program. “Cytotechnologists are ‘cancer detectives’ who are entrusted to view tens of thousands of cells within a sample to find abnormal cells, which will be sent to a pathologist for further classification.”

“Cytotechnology is a life-saving profession that is not on the radar of the public,” said Jennifer Clark, SCT(ASCP)CM, Product Development Manager at ASCP. “Working in the profession is incredibly rewarding. Pap testing is a direct intervention in saving women’s lives.”

The Pap smear was the first test to allow detection of premalignant changes at a time when they are 100 percent curable with minimal inconvenience to a woman, according to Rosemary Zuna, MD, Chair, American Society for Cytopathology (ASC) Public Affairs Committee and Professor of Pathology at the University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma City, Okla.

“Additionally, Pap testing may be the only primary healthcare testing for women, and breast cancer evaluation, hypertension, diabetes, and other disease are detected at Pap test visits,” said Elizabeth Jenkins, ASC Executive Director.

While Pap tests still comprise the majority of testing volume, major organizations such as Mayo Clinic have converted study slide files to liquid-based specimens. For decades, cytotechnologists have also performed nongynecologic testing, including cancers from the lungs, breast, gastrointestinal (GI) tract, urinary tract, as well as fine needle biopsies of virtually every body site. More recently, however, cytotechnologists have begun performing molecular diagnostics, using the techniques of hybrid capture, in situ hybridization (chromogenic and fluorescent) and polymerase chain reaction, according to E. Blair Holladay, PhD, SCT(ASCP)CM, Executive Vice President of ASCP.

“CTs possess all the skills to make the initial diagnosis of cancer,” Dr. Holladay said.

May 13 marks the 26th anniversary of National Cytotechnology Day. The new opportunities for cytotechnologists to detect different forms of cancer ensure the celebration of this day for many years to come.

“My diagnoses and real time assessments help to provide assurance to physicians and patients of a definitive diagnosis, ensuring patients will not have to return to the hospital for the stressful biopsy procedure and giving physicians the ability to quickly administer proper treatment,” said Sean McNair, CT(ASCP)CM, who served as an ASCP Ambassador to promote careers in the laboratory profession to high school students.