Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
Dr. Balentine received his undergraduate degree from McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland. He attended medical school at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine graduating in1983. He completed his internship at St. Joseph's Hospital in Philadelphia and his Emergency Medicine residency at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center in the Bronx, where he served as chief resident.
As with all cancers, early diagnosis is key to successful treatment and cure. Treating precancerous changes that affect only the surface of a small part of the cervix is much more likely to be successful than treating invasive cancer that affects a large portion of the cervix and has spread to other tissues.
The most important progress that has been made in early detection of cervical cancer is widespread use of the Papanicolaou test (Pap smear).
The Pap smear is done as part of a regular pelvic examination.
Named after the pathologist who developed the test, the Pap smear is a quick, painless, and relatively inexpensive way of screening women for precancerous or cancerous changes in their cervix.
Cells from the surface of the cervix are collected on a slide and examined. Any abnormality found on a Pap smear mandates further evaluation.
Diagnosis of cervical cancer requires that a sample of cervical tissue (called a biopsy) be taken and analyzed under a microscope.
This tissue sample can be obtained in a number of ways.
A cervical biopsy is usually done by a specialist in diseases of women's reproductive and sexual organs (a gynecologist).
The biopsy is examined by a physician who specializes in diagnosing diseases by looking at cells and tissues under a microscope (a pathologist).
Colposcopy is a procedure similar to a pelvic examination.
The examination uses a type of microscope called a colposcope to inspect the cervix. The entire area of the cervix is stained with a harmless dye to make abnormal cells easier to see.
The colposcope magnifies the cervix by 8-10 times, allowing easier identification of any abnormal-appearing tissue that may need biopsy.
This procedure can usually be done in a gynecologist's office.
These abnormalities may be an early step in the slow series of changes that can lead to cancer.
Sometimes a larger biopsy is needed to fully check for invasive cervical cancer.