Path To Path Lab – Passionate About Cervical Cancer Screening

Melissa Randolph grew up in a rural farming community where she was exposed early on to the gifts of music, nature, and science.

On her Greensburg, farm Randolph and her three siblings were part of a family of hard workers. Everyone pitched in tending to hogs, picking strawberries and snapping green beans. The eldest sibling, Randolph was the first in her generation to attend college and took her work ethic to IU Bloomington. She didn’t know it then, but her rural upbringing would play a vital role in her career at IU Health where she works in the pathology lab – specifically overseeing screenings for cervical cancer.

In high school she was both academically and musically driven. Classically trained in piano, she accompanied all the high school musicals and also picked up saxophone along the way. When she started college, Randolph discovered she had not just a photographic memory but also one that couldn’t be turned off like a light switch. She combined her love of science with that gift of memory and earned a degree in Cytotechnology. Specifically, she is responsible for reviewing changes in body cells that can lead to the early development of cancer and other diseases.

Her job is critical when it comes to early detection of cancer.

When asked about how she relieves stress from working at such a highly intense job, she talks about her four-year stint with the local band, “The Polyester Starfish.” The group rehearses at Randolph’s home and performs locally playing original tunes with the vibes ranging from Mumford & Sons to Pink Floyd. Randolph plays keyboard and sax and performs on vocals. Other than the band, she likes to chill with her husband of 17 years, Eric Randolph and their 10-year-old daughter, Adaleigh.

Her face lights up when talks about family and she easily connects the dots to her profession like the molecules in a cell sample.

“Coming from a small farming community I know that women don’t get screened regularly for cervical cancer,” said Randolph. “What I’ve tried to do is share with other women the importance of screening and encourage them.”

Since she started her profession, advances in screenings are now quicker and more accurate. Here’s what’s new at IU Health:

  • Two new instruments streamline a three-part cervical cancer screening. (Patients who visit their OB/GYN or primary care physician for a pap test are automatically screened for Human Papillomavirus (HPV) that can put women at risk for cervical cancer). The testing is accomplished through a single sample.
  • The additional screening will also determine if the patient carries one of the two high-risk virus strains associated with HPV, forming pre-cancerous changes.
  • The advanced “one-stop” screenings will improve the patient’s knowledge early on for their risk levels for cervical cancer and they can work with their physician on preventative measures and follow up screenings.

“I’m passionate about this because screening leads to early detection,” said Randolph. The screening process takes about 10 minutes and the patient can have results within a week. “I want women to know that this is as simple as going for an annual exam and can provide valuable information that impacts their overall health.”

— By T.J. Banes, Associate Senior Journalist at IU Health.
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 T.J. Banes or on Twitter @tjbanes.