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does a computer read a paptest or a person?

By Anonymous March 21, 2010 - 12:32pm
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i had a pap test on nov. 18th, 2009. i never received a call by my doctor. four months later they call & said i have bad cells. she said it took so long for my test to come back because a computer read it in nov. but, a man in march. i have never heard or been through this in my life.

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I had understood that a pathologist read/analyzed the specimen from a Pap Smear, but I would recommend that you do the following:

1. Call your doctor's office back, and ask for clarification. What does "a computer read the results" mean, as you thought a pathologist or other lab technician analyzed each specimen. What is the error rate? When should you come into the office for another Pap Smear, as you do not understand how the specimen would still be around the office for that long (4 months?!) and still provide accurate results. Your doctor needs to explain all of this to you.
2. If your doctor is unable to, then you should be able to call the lab that analyzed your pap smear. (It should be on your health insurance claims, or your doctor can provide the name of the Lab). It is not uncommon to call the lab and ask about their procedures, as you do not understand how a Pap Smear specimen is analyzed, how long they keep the specimens, how long the specimens are viable, and if they are read by a Pathologist or computer. What results do you trust: the immediate computer-analyzed results, or the 4-months-delayed-human-analyzed results? What is the purpose of the Pathologist reviewing the specimen 4 months later...is this standard practice to keep specimens for this length of time, to be randomly reviewed again? These are all very reasonable questions.

Please let us know what information you find out, and hopefully we will hear from a medical expert how has knowledge about this as well. Each lab is different, so it is important for you to find out about your specific specimen and results. Please ask for a 2nd opinion or test.

March 21, 2010 - 1:14pm
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