Not your typical New Years’ Eve ice-breaker

It’s New Year’s Eve.  You’re at the party with your girlfriends waiting for the ball to drop, and you notice how quickly the most common topics of conversation have been exhausted.

You wish to avoid filling the awkward moment of silence by blurting out something brilliant only to find that your timing was spectacularly pathetic.

As an OB/GYN, I am often aware of the confusion and embarrassment which follows quickly on the heels of the seemingly inappropriate conversational tidbit provided at precisely the wrong moment.

So, try this topic to jump-start a conversation: cervical cancer screening. It might be the least sexy subject to highlight in an end-of-the-year blog, but I am convinced that this will be an excellent ice-breaker at this year’s New Year’s Eve party.

You could start by saying something like: “Did you hear the latest about Pap smears?”

Or maybe, “you would not believe what my gynecologist said to me!”

Anticipate a few raised eyebrows. But know that you’ve succeeded in getting the attention required for the next statement. You’ll pause, taking full advantage of the moment and say with authority:  “I don’t need a Pap test every year!”

Be prepared for the gasps of disbelief.  Your friends might ask: “Seriously?” Or: “Whatever!”

You are now ready to deliver news of this year’s most important breakthrough in your gyn visits – news from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Here are 10 key points you’ll want to know (they’ll fit on a cocktail napkin):

  • Women are now advised to have a Pap test every three years.
  • Abnormal Pap test results are due to exposure to the human papillomavirus
  • The human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common of all sexually transmitted infections
  • The Pap test is designed to collect cells from the cervix to screen for evidence of HPV infection.
  • There are 15 high risk HPV types that can cause precancerous changes of the cervical cells
  • The most important high risk viral types which cause pre-cancerous changes of the cervical cells are HPV 16 and HPV 18.
  • Infection with the high risk (HR) HPV is  necessary for the development of cancer of the cervix
  • Most HPV-infected women will not develop cervical disease because their immune response is effective.
  • Women are invited to begin cervical cancer screening no sooner than age 21.
  • Cervical cancer is rare in women under 21 years of age (about 1 to 2 cases of cervical cancer per 1,000,000 females aged 15-19).


Now sit back, smile ever so indulgently, and suggest that your friends make one of their New Years’ resolutions to know as much as you do about the importance of the Pap test.

Let me know how your conversations go!


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