Health Department offering free Pap smears

In collaboration with Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center School of Medicine in Odessa, the Ector County Health Department is offering free Pap smears to women on a first-come, first-served basis weekly.

Health Department Director Gino Solla said the clinic is being offered from 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Thursdays.

Those eligible for the service must be women age 21-65, a Texas resident, uninsured, someone who hasn’t had cervical cancer in the past, hasn’t had a hysterectomy and has not had a Pap smear in the last three years, Solla said.

Dr. Vani Selvin, a Texas Tech health sciences professor in Family and Community Medicine, oversees medical residents. Solla said Selvin comes in with the residents the first of each month and orients them to the clinic and the residents conduct the exams in consultation with her.

“We provide a nurse to assist the resident doctor in conducting the exam,” Solla said.

He added that the clinic has been running for about two months and has seen 12 patients, a figure he would like to see rise. The service is being offered on a Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas grant obtained by the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in El Paso.

“If we can’t show that there’s a need in the community and that the community will utilize it, it will no longer be available. I just can’t imagine that something that cost hundreds of dollars, but is being offered free won’t be used,” Solla said.

Those who come in for the screening will be offered the Gardasil vaccine free if they meet all the requirements, Solla said. The vaccine protects against some types of human papillomavirus, or HPV, which can cause cervical cancer.

He added that there are also educational DVDs that will play on a loop in English and Spanish so people can view them when they come to the health department for other services.

The grant covers the exam itself, the lab work and further procedures like a cone biopsy or colposcopy, Solla said.

Paul Dodge, a resident in Texas Tech University health sciences’ family medicine program, said he thinks it’s a good idea to try to increase precancer screenings.

Dr. Vani Selvan, who is coordinating with the Texas Tech campus in El Paso on the grant and program director for it here, said the service is a “really great opportunity” for uninsured women. The grant covers the Pap smear, HPV screening, a colposcopy and colposcapy-based treatment.

The American Cancer Society website said about 13,240 new cases of invasive cervical cancer will be diagnosed in 2018 and 4,170 women will die from cervical cancer.

The site says cervical pre-cancers are diagnosed “far more often than invasive cervical cancer.”

Between the health department and screenings at Texas Tech, Selvan said she has screened 17 people in the program out of which two have been diagnosed with cancer.

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