Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Smear Tests, Abnormal Cells and a Colposcopy

I wanted to write up my experience of a recent abnormal cell result from my smear test. I was so worried I didn't know what to do and I ended up reading all sorts and wished I found a personal account to help me. I'm writing about my results and my experience of a colposcopy where I had a biopsy taken on my cervix to check the cells. I've left several links at the bottom of this post of 2 websites; Jo's Trust and NHS Choices, which really helped me.


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I remember the first time I had a smear test. I was really nervous. I wasn't worried about the actual test itself; after having 2 children and attending other appointments involving examinations I wasn't worried about a nurse seeing something she had seen a thousand times. I was always scared about the results. Thankfully the smear tests have always been painless (as they should be, although they are a little uncomfortable) and my results have always come back clear. Until this year.

In August I came back from a break at Mr K's house and a family visit to a load of mail as usual. It was late but I hate leaving my mail so went about opening it all. There were 2 white envelopes I didn't recognise. I opened the first one up and saw it was the results of my most recent smear test. I was expecting the same sentence as last time and a reminder that my next smear would be due in 3 years as usual. I wasn't expecting to see that abnormal cells had been found and that I had the HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) The second letter was my date for a colposcopy at my local hospital. I panicked. I was terrified. Like a lot of women, all logic and rational thinking went out the window and I began to get upset. I called Mr K, who stayed on the phone with me for a fair while before I said I was tired. I had a shower, I prayed and then I went on line. I read the NHS website and then found Jo's Trust, a charity set up to help women who are diagnosed with cervical cancer. They also spread awareness of smear tests and have lots of information and trained volunteers who you can talk to about the process of finding out about HPV, having a colposcopy and what the cell results actually mean.

I sent an email to Jo's Trust at 1 o' clock in the morning. What was going to happen? What does this abnormal cell result mean? What is HPV and how the heck did I get it? Can I still have sex? (Yes) Is it something that I've caused myself? (No) So many questions about the virus, about the cells, about the upcoming procedure.

Later the next day I had an email from a lovely lady reassuring me about everything. I felt calmer. I went back to Kent for the rest of our holiday and came back with Mr K who would be with me during my colposcopy.

I attended the genealogical unit of the hospital and was welcomed by some friendly nurses. Mr K and I took our seats and waited for my name to be called. Before a colposcopy you mustn't have sexual intercourse, use tampons or any creams for 24 hours but there wasn't anything else to avoid. If you happen to be on your period you can rearrange your appointment too. 

I was shown into a room with a gynecologist who checked what medication I was on, asked about contraception and my menstrual cycle. She then explained what the procedure involved and the nurse showed me into the room where the colposcopy takes place. I undressed my bottom half behind a curtain and had to sit on a large chair. When the consultant was ready she moved the chair, my feet on stirrups and bum right back on the chair, up almost as if I was on some ride that slowly climbs up before you reach the top and go down, like a log flume or a roller coaster, it was weird!


The consultant and nurse were very kind. They made sure regularly that I was coping and spoke to Mr K as well which I thought was nice. When everyone was ready, the consultant used a vaginal speculum just as they do in a smear test to get a clear view of my cervix. If you want to, you can watch on a screen and see your cervix for yourself! I actually found it quite interesting! (This is possible because a microscope with a torch  is used which, by the way, doesn't go inside you!)

Liquid was applied to my cervix which would show the consultant any abnormal looking cells. Several patches showed up on my cervix so I was told 2 biopsies would be taken for testing. This was the uncomfortable part. The first biopsy was taken and I didn't feel it much. Then the second was taken and it was a real pinch. This one was slightly higher up and it bled quite a lot which was not normal for most women. The nurse kept me calm, I stopped looking at the screen and just prayed that this would end soon so I could go! The bleeding did stop and silver nitrate was applied to both areas which helps stop the bleeding. This makes your body start the healing process so you get period type cramps and a few aches. It isn't pleasant but after some paracetamol I was okay.

I left soon after the procedure feeling a little sore and anxious. Mr K was a brilliant support, I had a few cuddles and a hot chocolate and headed home. All I could do now was await my results which would come about 10 days time. After the colposcopy your body will bleed much like a period, and the silver nitrate leaves your body. I personally bled for just over week. Women are all different though and you'll bleed slightly more or slightly less. As long as you're not losing more blood than you would on your period and you don't smell anything foul, everything should come to an end without any problems. 

I had my biopsy results last week. I do have abnormal cells, like 6 out of 10 women often do. 4 out of 10 women often have nothing. I have CIN1 which is the lowest result meaning my cells are unlikely to change and my body should get rid of the virus and cells by itself. I have been invited back in 12 months for another smear test to check on this. I still feel a little anxious about it but I hope that my next smear will show that these cells have gone back to normal and I won't have to go through another colposcopy.

Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust

To read about smear tests, get advice about them and cervical cancer, HPV and about attending a colposcopy please visit Jo's Trust who are just amazing.

For information about colposcopy including what it is, what happens, results and more you can also visit the NHS Choices website. Leaflets included in my letters were also really useful.

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I'd like to thank the lovely volunteer at Jo's Trust for her email, the team on Twitter for wishing me luck and being supportive when I shared I was nervous. The many people I told and who supported me, Brenda for her advice after the exam when I was panicking, all the amazing staff at The Princess Alexandra Wing, Treliske Hospital and my amazing boyfriend Martyn for being supportive both before, during and after.

1 comment:

  1. I was terrified about what to expect when I was told I had abnormal cells and needed a colposcopy.I needn't have worried, it wasn't the most fun thing I've ever had to do bit it wasn't anywhere near as bad as I'd worked it up to be in my head.Very much as you've described, I was recalled every year for a while but am all fine now. Glad it was ok for you x

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