Cervical Cancer Survivor: Women Aren't Getting Life Saving Information

November 10, 1998

RANCHO MIRAGE, CA, November 9, 1998 -- A cervical cancer survivor and victim of a misdiagnosed Pap smear test advised physicians and health care experts today that women aren't being told what they need to know about cervical cancer symptoms and how to prepare for a Pap smear to ensure more accurate results.

Carol Armenti, Executive Director of the Center for Cervical Health in New Jersey, said women can and should take an active role in their own health. "I had symptoms for a year and a half that weren't diagnosed," Armenti told those attending an international patient safety conference, "Enhancing Patient Safety and Reducing Errors in Health Care."

Armenti said women should be aware of unusual mucous discharge, intermittent bleeding, and bleeding after sexual intercourse -- possible symptoms that physicians rarely discuss with their patients. "We need to advise women that they can contribute to their own well-being by knowing what to look for," Armenti said.

Armenti added that women should also know that the most accurate Pap smears are taken during the middle of their menstrual cycle. Women should avoid sexual intercourse and douching when scheduled to receive a Pap smear. Congress has declared January as National Cervical Cancer Awareness month as a result of Armenti's efforts.

In other conference developments today, hospitals and nursing homes were urged to consider alternatives to the use of physical restraint for disruptive or disoriented patients. Suggested were establishing a quiet area for patients who are upset or an area where patients can work off energy without threatening others.

The call to prevent restraint deaths came from the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, the nation's leader in providing quality oversight for more than 18,000 health care facilities. During the past two years, the Joint Commission has reviewed 20 deaths of patients who were physically restrained.

To prevent future deaths, the Joint Commission suggested hospitals and nursing homes rely on less restrictive, less dangerous alternatives; better-trained staff; and continuous monitoring of restrained patients.

In 40 percent of the cases reviewed by the Joint Commission, restrained patients died from asphyxiation. Restrained patients also died from strangulation, cardiac arrest and fire. All of the strangulation deaths were seen in elderly patients, while the deaths by fire were male patients who were attempting to smoke or were using a cigarette lighter to burn off the restraints, and younger patients who suffered heart attacks while being physically restrained.

The conference is being convened by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Annenberg Center for Health Sciences, the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Organizations, the National Patient Safety Foundation at the AMA, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Additional support for the conference is coming from the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research, the American Hospital Association, the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists Research and Education Foundation, Pfizer Inc., Pharmacia & Upjohn Inc. and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

American Association for the Advancement of Science

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