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Colposcopies: Leading the Charge in Fighting Cervical Cancer

January 19, 2016

Twice per year, physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, midwives, medical residents and more gather from across the globe to attend the only colposcopy course in the United States that offers a hands-on learning experience, and it’s held at Drexel University.  The course is a transdisciplinary effort between the College of Nursing and Health Professions and the College of Medicine. 

Colposcopy is a skill required for anyone practicing gynecology.  It’s a follow up to an abnormal pap smear in which the clinician closely examines a woman’s cervix, vagina, and vulva for signs of disease, including cervical cancer.  “We know that when detected early, there is a tremendous survival rate, almost 100%, when caught in the early stages.  And although pap smears are wonderful, they are a screening tool, whereas the colposcopy is more diagnostic.  It lets us know the extent of the disease and will best guide us in terms of treatment,” said Alis Panzera, DrNP ‘09, assistant clinical professor in the Nurse Practitioner program and co-director of the course. 

“It’s not typically a skill that people are ready to learn in their master’s course, it’s a more advanced skill that we offer as a continuing education credit.  Usually some people take it a year after they’ve graduated, others take it many years later, and we have much more experienced providers who are looking for a refresher, to get up to date on everything that’s going on,” said Panzera.

Participants have traveled from as far as New Zealand and Venezuela to attend Drexel’s colposcopy course because of its unique hands on approach.  This three-day course consists of not only didactics, but two days of interactive lab performed in the simulation labs housed within the Center for Interdisciplinary Clinical Simulation and Practice in New College Building.  “Thanks to the help of the people in the lab, we have been able to replicate cervixes that they can actually practice on.  They can practice taking a biopsy on a simulated cervix they make from scratch for us.  We formulated a pretend vagina, which is a piece of PVC piping, on which we can really emulate the whole procedure for our participants.  They get to try it several times before they actually do it on a real person.  We went through several reiterations in terms of color and feel, and they just did a wonderful job.  The participants just love the lab, it’s nothing they’d ever seen where they’re able to practice so hands on.”

Attendance is capped at 34 participants to ensure that each gets individual attention.  The course sells out every time it’s offered. 

Said Panzera, “You’re not practicing to the fullest extent of your skillset if you’re not offering colposcopies.  We’re making the service available for women throughout the country. Hopefully every woman in the United States will be able to receive this procedure if they need it.”

For more information or to register for upcoming courses click here