|Photo courtesy of Ambro at free digitalphotos.net|
I can not stress enough the importance of smear tests also known as cervical screening tests.
This test is a way of detecting abnormal (pre cancerous cells) in the cervix and helps to prevent cervical cancer. 1 in 20 women will receive an abnormal result, which shows changes in the cells. Most of these changes do no lead to cancer and will generally return to normal on their own. However in some cases, the cells that are abnormal will need to be treated in order to prevent them becoming cancerous.
Generally women 25 years of age and over will be called for screening every three years.
I am writing this post from a first hand point of view.
My smear tests have always come back normal, that was until after I had given birth to my daughter.
My next smear test came back abnormal. This worried me.
When I was around 12 years of age, my parents had to tell us the most devasting news we could imagine.
My mum had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. My sister and I were young and didn’t really fully understand what this meant.
For the first couple of years my mum was relatively well, but then she had to have more intensive treatment and she started to lose her hair.
I remember as the years went by she was in hospital more and more, she lost an awful lot of weight.
My mum had two operations and relapsed needing chemotherapy on five different occassions.
Although she was not a well person, my mum returned to her job as a midwife. She loved her job, and she loved life.
She lived it to the full and didn’t let cancer stop her from doing the things she wanted to do.
In 2005 when I was just 18 years old, I lost my mum.
My mum passed away at the young age of 50.
I was devastated. We all were. I remember walking out of the hospital that day, thinking I was never going to be able to kiss my mum on the nose as I had so fondly done before, I could not longer cuddle up to her on the sofa in the evenings catching up on all the soaps.
No, from now on it was just me, my sister and my dad. It was a very difficult time for us all.
My dad and I decided to raise awareness and money in memory of my mum. We become ambassadors for Cancer Research, and we held fundraising events in our local village on behalf of the charity Ovacome.
My sister and I also take part in the Race for Life for Cancer Research every year.
Continuing on from my abnormal smear test, I was called in for an appointment at the colposcopy clinic at my local hospital.
A consultant advised that they wanted to take a small biopsy from my cervix so that it could be analysed to see what was going on.
This was a relatively uncomfortable experience.
The biopsy result came back showing CIN3 abnormal cells. CIN3 cells in the most severe of abnormalities. It indicates that all of the cells in the affected area are abnormal. I left the clinic in tears, I could not help but think of the worst. Especially as I am now a mum, I kept thinking of my little girl, and recalling how difficult it was for me losing my mum.
The consultant advised me that I would need to have the cells removed in a procedure called LLETZ, aslo known as loop excision. It involves cutting out the area of the cervix where the abnormal cells have developed. It is usually performed under local anaesthetic, as I had to have a larger area removed the consultant told me the procedure would be carried out under general aneasthetic.
The closer my surgery appointment came, the more nervous I grew. I kept thinking what if I don’t react well to the anasthetic or what if I wake up half way through! But the worst thing of all that was really upsetting me, was the thought of being unconscience whilst a team of surgeons are messing around with my most private parts. I would be completely unawares as to what was going on.
The day of the surgery, I arrived at the hospital early morning and had a long wait ahead of me. I was not allowed to eat or drink anything. I was given a hosptial gown to put on, and was finally called to the operating theatre. The aneathetist injected the aneasthetic into my hand and I counted from 10 to 1. All I remember next is waking up being wheeled on the bed down the hospital corridors and into a recovery room.
I was told that the operation went well, and that I would need plenty of rest when I returned home. I felt like I was walking like John Wayne! I had what can only be described as really bad period pain cramps in my tummy. I was surprised to find minimal bleeding though.
A while later and I received a letter saying that they had tested the part of my cervix that they had removed and it showed no abnormal or cancerous cells.
What did this mean?!
I began to think have I just been through all that for nothing? Had they made some kind of mistake and actually there was no abnormality in the first place? Had my results been mixed up with somebody elses?
I received another letter stating that my case was being heard in a few months time at a multidisciplinary meeting to discuss the discrepancies.
When I eventually spoke to the consultant she explained that when I had the biopsy taken at the colposcopy clinic, the result of this came back abnormal. I was told that more than likely the area of abnormal cells was so small that the biopsy had actually removed all of them.
While this was a relief to hear I still cant help but think that I have had invasive surgery to remove part of my cervix for nothing. Side affects of this include possible miscarriages in future pregnancies and also a higher risk of pre term labour.
As I am now expecting my second child (due March 2014), the chance of pre term labour is still possible. I am under consultant care and have been advised that if there is any sign of my baby being born early I will need to be given steriods to help the baby develop quicker just in case he is born too soon.
I really cannot stress enough to all women how important it is that you attend your smear tests regularly. You may find it embarassing but it only takes five minutes and it could save your life.
HAVE YOU BEEN AFFECTED BY CANCER OR HAVE A SIMILAR EXPERIENCE?