I want to provide you with my experiences, in the hope, that it will help many females (and partners).
I don't think Cervical screening should be a taboo subject, many women find it embarrassing talking about what goes on "down there". Mechanically, we are all built the same.
So, here is my story.
The horror stories i heard when i was younger about smear testing frightened the life out of me. Like many women, i never went to my smear test appointment. In fact i ignored all three letters, since the age of 25.
The more i thought "Oh, what if i have Cancer?" the more i was inclined to grow up, and stop being so naive. So, on 21.02.2015 i called my GP and got an appointment for the same day. I was working this day but luckily my GP is a 2 minute stroll from my work.
As i sat in the waiting room so many images and thoughts were going through my head. I was mainly thinking about what contraption would be used on me. I also thought about how i would hide the fact that i'm walking funny (yes, my thoughts went to that extent).
My nurse was lovely, i couldn't have asked for a better person to carry out for my first smear test. She made me feel relaxed, calm, and like it didn't matter that i hadn't shaved my legs! The nurse checked to see how low my cervix was sitting, and if it needed manipulating (it was fine, and in position).
Shortly after, a Speculum was inserted (the contraption i was worried about!) it was pain free! Of course you can feel that something has been inserted, but please be reassured that this is in no way uncomfortable.
The nurse took the sample, and in to a pot it went. Long gone were the horror stories i had made up in my head. The nurse told me my results would be sent to the hospital and that i would receive a letter back in 7-10 days.
I walked out of the GP surgery like i had a achieved something, a milestone complete. For timescale purposes i was only in the GP Surgery a total of 15 minutes. I didn't experience any bleeding/discharge or tenderness after my smear test, but i did wear a panty liner for peace of mind.
I waited around 6 days for my letter to arrive, in the back of my head i knew my results would come back abnormal, but there was still a glimmer of hope i held on to that they were fine.
During those six days i had convinced myself i had Cancer.
How would i tell people? How could i leave my family, and close friends? Is there a cure for me?
I was mentally trying to prepare myself for the worse case scenario.
I ripped open my letter. I read it once, and then again. I still had no idea what my letter meant or what it was trying to tell me.
I had no clue what this meant, so off to Google i went. I just wanted to understand what was actually wrong.
I was booked to have an examination at the Colposcopy department (although, if you're like me, i ended up going to Colonoscopy department. Silly me). My Colposcopist was amazing. I have to say, i was worried about such an invasive procedure, the fact that the room was bigger was daunting enough!
Like a smear test, a speculum is inserted. The chair/bed is lowered at the back so you're pretty much laying down with your legs in stirrups. The Colposcope used does not enter your body in any way, shape or form. This is strictly external.
Once the speculum was in i felt uncomfortable, it just felt different from my smear. I was told that my Cervix was facing down. My cervix was manipulated with a cotton swab, and put back in its place! Again, this was pain free and more comfortable for me after.
I was in the chair for around 10 minutes, i was comfortable and relaxed. However, i was still slightly worried.
Once the procedure was finished, i was shown 3 pictures of my cervix. The abnormal cells shown in the pictures are circled in the top left side.
The colposcopist explained what procedure i would need, and how it is carried out.
I was due to attend colposcopy for surgery on Wednesday 13th January 2015. I was to have LLETZ (Large loop excision of transformation zone). This procedure is carried out under a local anaesthetic.
My colposcopist assured me that the anaesthetic used is the same as when you have your tooth out, but not as painful as there are much lesser nerves in the cervix. The needle also used for the anaesthetic is the finest of needles (they almost look plastic and bendy) For weeks, i couldn't get my head around having an injection in my cervix.
Wednesday 13th January 2016, sure enough that came around quick!
I was called in for my pre-assessment. I gave my consent and i was taken in to my usual room, thank god i was the usual room. My BP/Heart rate was taken before, and after surgery.
Here i was, back in this chair with my legs in the air. Once i was prepped and comfortable the procedure began.
I keep secretly pinching my thumb to "push through the pain", i was tensing and just waiting for the needle to go in, and to feel the sting of the anaesthetic.
My colposcopist asked if i had felt anything, i said no? Because i genuinely didn't. She had already numbed the area she needed to, i'm thrilled i didn't feel any pain or discomfort. I was worrying for nothing. I was so happy!
I could now feel my cervix getting heavy, a little tingle (like pins and needles.. no pun intended) where the anaesthetic was kicking in. Its a strange sensation, but again, this in no way caused me any discomfort. My cells were being removed by a metal rod. The generator for the machine can be a tad loud, but please don't be put off by this. The cells were removed within a few seconds. I popped myself up on the edge of the bed and had my BP taken again, all was well.
I had a small amount of bleeding after surgery, just when i wiped after using the loo. I did use a larger sanitary towel for this procedure, just in case i did bleed heavily or had discharge. I generally felt fine after the surgery, i did have slight period like aches so i would advise to take some painkillers a long with you. I also felt very tired to the point where i was struggling to keep my eyes open (maybe a mixture of emotions/anaesthetic and one hell of a long day)
Above are the pictures post surgery, slight bleeding, as you can see. After surgery there is to be no use of Tampons, its also advised to refrain from sexual intercourse and not to go swimming. This allows the cervix to heal in its own time, and to heal safely.
A week or so after my surgery i found myself still wearing a panty liner or sanitary towel of some sort. I noticed i started getting a heavy discharge, this started off almost looking like black ash (which i can only assume was dried blood) but soon after it was an average coloured discharge. I didn't this was right so off i popped back to the GP.
After another examination (with yet again, my unshaven legs) the GP confirmed i did have an infection post surgery, but the wound itself was healing very nicely. My GP put me on a weeks worth of Metronidazole, this cleared the infection up a treat.
So, to date (06/05/2015) i haven't had any problems. My periods are regular and i'm healthy. I am due to go back to Colposcopy on 18/07/2016 for a six month post check Cervical screening.
I don't fear these procedures anymore. I would rather have these cells burned away, than have a life time of worry and uncertainty. Or, the possibility of no life at all.
Please, if you have been invited by your GP to attend a Cervical screening, just go. It takes a lot of courage for some women, but you can do it! We all can.
I want to give many thanks to my family and close friends, that have supported me in the past year.
Gynaecology/Colposcopy department at Queens Hospital.
Queens Hospital Access to Health Records department.
You all played a big part in many different ways, and for that, I thank you.