This week is cervical cancer prevention week here in the UK and so I thought I would highlight the importance of cervical screening by sharing my story with you all.
I want to start by mentioning Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust and their smear for smear campaign, which aims to raise awareness. To join in with the campaign you simply need to smear your lipstick, take a selfie and post it on social media along with the hashtag #SmearForSmear. Don’t forget to nominate a friend too to keep the campaign going. Here’s my #SmearForSmear selfie:
At age 25 I had my first cervical screening appointment. I had put it off for a few months because I didn’t know what to expect and so I was a little nervous about it. The test itself was fine, not painful at all and really not as embarrassing as I’d thought it might be.
My results came through the post a couple of weeks later and I was very shocked to see I had HPV (human papilloma virus), but fortunately no abnormal cell changes. I had never heard of HPV so I googled it to find out more. Googling is never a good idea! It just made me worry unnecessarily.
The next day I went to the doctor who put my mind at rest by explaining that HPV is very common, in fact nearly all sexually active women will get it at some point in their life. HPV causes most cervical cancer cases and so school girls are now vaccinated against it, but unfortunately this was introduced too late for me.
I was back for another smear test a year later, it should be every 3 years but it was sooner for me due to the HPV. They found that the HPV was still present in my cervix but this time there were some low grade cell changes too. So I was sent for a colposcopy, which is where they take a closer look at your cervix. They decided that treatment was not needed at this point but they would see me again in 6 months time.
I went into my next colposcopy appointment feeling pretty confident that everything would be ok, just like it was last time. But unfortunately my results showed high grade cell changes, graded as CIN 3.
Abnormal cell changes are graded as either CIN 1, 2 or 3 before it becomes the early stages of cervical cancer. So mine was pretty bad at this point.
I had to go back a few weeks later for treatment. The treatment is called LLETZ (large loop excision of the transformation zone) and involves using a heated wire to remove the abnormal cells under local anaesthetic. If I’m honest, I was terrified because I’d heard horror stories about how painful the procedure is and how difficult the recovery can be. I really needant have worried though as the procedure was fine, I hardly felt any pain at all and the recovery was quick too.
The next step was to go back to my GP 6 months later for a follow up smear test. Again I was nervous, what if they hadn’t got rid of it? What if I needed treatment again? What if it had gotten worse?
I got my results within two weeks and I was all clear! No abnormal cells and no HPV! It was such a relief. So now I just have to go back for my routine smear test in 3 years time.
If I hadn’t been for cervical screening my situation could be very different right now. It’s so important to keep up with your appointments. Don’t put it off, don’t worry, don’t be nervous and certainly don’t be embarrassed.
8 women in the UK are diagnosed with cervical cancer every day and 3 of those will lose their lives to the disease. Make sure you aren’t one of those women.
You can donate by texting ‘JCCT16 £5’ to 70077.
Thanks for reading.