Our People in Profile: Cytotechnologist Kim MacRae helps detect pre-cancerous cells and prevent cervical cancer of patients

Kim MacRae, Cytotechnologist
Kim MacRae, Cytotechnologist (NSHA)

As a cytotechnologist with Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA), Kim MacRae is part of a team of skilled health professionals doing its part to help prevent cervical cancer and find it earlier, when treatment is most effective.

A cytotechnologist is a technologist that studies cell samples under a microscope. Although their role is to examine slides from a range of body sites, the majority are Pap smears or gynecological in nature.

After a physician or specially trained nurse performs a Pap test, the sample is placed on a slide and sent off to the NSHA’s lab and diagnostic imaging team for examination and report on findings. This is where MacRae and her colleagues get involved.

A typical day for MacRae begins with a rapid re-screen of a batch of samples. 

“This 45-second check per sample is part of our quality assurance program to ensure nothing gets missed,” said MacRae.

 Over the course of a full day, she examines between 40 and 45 new slides.

MacRae and colleagues examine samples for the presence of disease such as pre-cancerous cells, herpes, viral and fungal infections, and parasites.

After the sample is examined, the result is entered into a computer. Once reviewed and approved by the pathologist, findings and recommendations are included in a communication that goes to the health care provider who performed the Pap test. The health care provider then notifies the patient of the result if it requires follow up.  

The result is also sent to the Cervical Cancer Prevention Program (CCPP) for entry into a database. 

In addition to collecting Pap test results, the CCPP provides a safety net to ensure that women with abnormal Paps have the necessary follow up – a colposcopy test. 

The CCPP also collects colposcopy test results and if within a certain timeframe they have not received colposcopy results for a woman with an abnormal Pap, they contact the patient to ensure she is aware of the abnormal Pap test result.

“I like that I’m doing my part helping to detect pre-cancerous cells and prevent cervical cancer from ever happening for patients,” MacRae said.