Colposcopy After Abnormal Smear Test

Just before Christmas, I received an NHS stamped letter following my recent smear test.  You know something isn’t right when the envelope isn’t a standard sized one, and instead it’s bigger and full of leaflets.

So even before opening the letter I knew the news wasn’t going to be good.

Jotrust Lg 044

And as expected they had discovered abnormal cells on my cervix.  They further tested the cells and found I had high risk HPV which is often the cause for cervical cancer.

HPV is a sexually transmitted virus, and it’s very common.  According to some statistics 80%-90% of sexually active people will have a form of the HPV virus.

Most people will be subject to this virus as soon as they start having sex, and condoms can’t even offer full protection.

Luckily there is a vaccine which is offered to teenage girls before they become sexually active.  This will prevent against certain HPV related diseases, specifically the cervical cancer causing one.

But please remember HPV isn’t the only cause of cervical cancer, although it is the most significant one, so even if you have had this vaccine make sure to regularly get your smears done as well.

Many people can get this virus and show no symptoms.  Which is why you can’t blame your current partner if you have found out you have HPV because it often remains dormant.  Just because you have no symptoms now, doesn’t mean you don’t have the virus.  Which is why your smear test is so important.

Cervical cancer is one of the slowest growing cancers and therefore early detection saves lives.

My smear test highlighted the abnormal cell changes due to high risk HPV.  99% of cervical cancers are associated with high risk HPV so it was essential for me to undergo further testing.

I had to have a colposcopy at my local hospital which involved being examined under microscope.  The procedure itself is very similar to the smear test and isn’t anything more than just uncomfortable- mainly because someone is staring at your vagina!

My cervix was tested with a vinegar solution, which is used to show the abnormal cells.  I was able to watch the examination on a big screen which was offered as an option to me, and the vinegar solution turned my cells white.  Which further concluded the presence of abnormal cells.

Unfortunately this was followed by a biopsy which was considered a necessity to further investigate the cells.

The biopsy wasn’t as painful as I had in my mind, I was more petrified of the thought than the actual process when it happened.

When I got home, I felt rather violated.  It’s a strong word to use, but I can’t think of another word to describe it.  It’s just such an intimate area and even though it wasn’t painful I did feel really quite shaken up.  I curled up on the sofa and I didn’t move for the evening.  I was on the brink of tears and very aware of my body.

For the days following I did have painful cramping sensations, bleeding and dark discharge.

If you want to see my colposcopy you can watch it here.

I decided to film it as a way to highlight the issue as well as deal with what was happening to me personally.  It sounds odd, but by filming it, it allowed me to remove myself from the situation because it was for something bigger than just me.  It was a totally selfish need for me.

The results took 4 weeks to arrive, and they were the best results I could have had.

I do have pre cancerous cells, however they are at the lowest grade right now.  The cells are graded on a scale of CIN1 to CIN3 (CIN stands for Cervical Intra-epithelial Neoplasia).  CIN2 and CIN3 require treatment currently to remove the cells.  Whereas CIN1 is left because in some cases (60% of people with CIN1) the body naturally rids the abnormal cells and therefore treatment isn’t necessary.

For now I’m ok, I have a follow-up smear test next year as opposed to three years as is the UK standard, and depending on those results it’ll determine what treatment I will need or if I’m completely discharged from the system.

I would imagine if abnormal cells are still showing I’ll have to redo the colposcopy and biopsy to see if the cells have progressed into the higher CIN categories.

Please, if you avoid your smear tests don’t.  Early detection of this slow-growing cancer can save lives.  The smear test itself doesn’t hurt and is over quickly.

I’ve been getting mine done regularly since it became available to me on the NHS.  If I have a daughter and the age hasn’t changed from 25 for smear tests, I’m likely to have her tested privately just to put my mind at ease once she starts being sexually active.

If you are going through a situation similar to mine, there are various charities that can help you understand your prognosis and help you with support.  I found the whole experience really quite isolating because it’s not something that is openly discussed.

Since I filmed my You Tube video I have been approached by many ladies who have had the same letters posted, regarding their smear test results.  They have found comfort in being able to chat to me about what’s happening and in return I have found comfort in them.  It’s something that’s very personal, highly emotive and distressing when you do get called back in for further testing.  Please don’t think you have to go through it alone.

thelondonmum

42 Comments

    • I regularly go for my smear tests, usually it’s in and out and that’s all. I was shocked to get these results and find out I had HPV. Just goes to show how important each smear test is, and you shouldn’t avoid any of them. x

  1. I had abnormal cells on a smear test before I got pregnant with Gabe. I had to have a colposcopy too and even though the doctor suspected the cells were CIN1 she decided to remove them anyway and I had a Loop Excision where they use electrical current to remove the affected cells. I was due a follow up smear after 6 months but was pregnant by that point, with a low lying placenta so it was decided it was best to wait. I’ve just had the results of the smear that I had a few weeks ago and thankfully it is now all clear. I’ll definitely be making sure I have my smears regularly and would encourage all women to make sure they do too. I also wrote about my experience on my blog, I hope you don’t mind me leaving a link… http://tobygoesbananas.co.uk/2015/06/26/what-happens-after-an-abnormal-smear-test/
    I hope everything is OK when you have your repeat smear next year.
    Sarah recently posted…Stuck in a never ending Twinkle Twinkle loopMy Profile

    • Thank you for that link, I know some women do have the LEEP even with CIN1, it must depend on district. I won’t lie, I was glad I avoided it. Glad to hear everything has cleared up now. I’m going to go on a mission “must remove cells somehow before next year” 😉

  2. This is why all young women should be offered a smear test much earlier. I had abnormal cells detected at 18 and had a colposcopy, the results came back ok but I dread to think what may have happened if I didn’t have my first smear until 25.

    • I agree. Cancer doesn’t pick an age group. It’s good they discovered your abnormal cells at such a young age, they must have been able to keep a closer eye on you knowing that information and making sure it was all fine.

    • It’s really surprising actually how many women you realise have gone through a similar ordeal but haven’t discussed it or mentioned it. I know it’s a very personal and intimate thing but by being more open it actively encourages other people to go get checked.

  3. Wow, I had no idea that HPV lay dormant. I am so glad you shared this post and I am also glad I’ve recently had a smear test! I honestly believe that ALL women, all ages, should be offered a smear test. I am glad it all worked out for you and that you’re having regular smear tests (rather than every 3 years!). Thank you for making me aware of HPV. xx
    Sarah recently posted…Meal Planning Monday.My Profile

    • I never knew what it was until I was told I had it. Understanding how it all works and connects has made me more confident knowing that should I have anything untoward in he future it’s likely to be dealt with a long time before a cancer prognosis.

    • I know exactly what you mean. I knew smear tests were important but didn’t understand why it was every three years of what it is they look out for. Knowing it’s changes and not cancer definitely makes the smear test much less threatening.

    • I didn’t know about it either, I didn’t know of the link or really what the injection they give to teenage girls now was for. Everyone needs that good nagging friend, don’t stop being it 😉

    • SO important. I started taking mine for granted to be honest, I didn’t realise about HPV and how it affects the cervix cells.

  4. I got my letter today for my first test which is tomorrow morning, I have never heard of this and feel a little anxious now ???? Thanks for sharing though X

    • Don’t be scared 🙂 The smear test is completely fine, just a little uncomfortable because you are aware someone is staring at your bits (even at 31 this doesn’t change!). But it doesn’t hurt. You’ll be fine.

      If anything bad is going on they’ll no doubt discover it way before it becomes serious which is the point of a smear test, so there really is no cause to freak out. Good luck, and don’t forget to tell your friends how simple it was to get done in case they feel nervous too. x

    • I so agree. I didn’t start having sex until I was 18- which is late in some peoples books so having the age limit at 25 is just ridiculous!

    • Childbirth is so excruciating though so you have no other room for other thoughts. The epidural was bliss though 😉

  5. It’s great that you were willing to share this. I would have been so shocked by those results but grateful that I went in for the initial smear test.

    • Yes I was so grateful for going in, but I really didn’t expect to hear anything that needed further investigation.

  6. So pleased that everything turned out to be OK! I absolutely hate having my smear test as I find it quite uncomfortable but always make myself go as it is so important. x

    • I never find them that bad, just awkward. Plus they’re over so quickly that by the time I’ve mentally cursed them in my mind it’s all done. lol. x

  7. This is such an important message! So pleased everything was okay, I’m not currently old enough for a smear test yet but will be come September and as odd as it may sound I can’t wait to finally be able to have them just so I can be on top of anything if there ever was anything I needed to worry about x

    • I know exactly what you mean. Especially with all the press and media coverage it must be quite a worrying time for any girl under 25. Not because you necessarily have anything but just because it’s nice to know your fine. x

  8. So glad everything turned out well! You must have been so scared. I don’t understand why anyone wouldn’t go for a smear test, its 5 minutes of being uncomfortable in exchange for your life! I have endometriosis so am not stranger to these exams and they just don’t even bother me any more LOL
    Idaintyit recently posted…Waste Not Want NotMy Profile

    • I know it’s so simple, the thought before your first one is far worse than what actually happens. It’s easy and pain free. x

  9. Thank you for the reminder! I need to get my next one booked asap.

    • Yes exactly, awful to have that result come back but also relieving because you know everything is still very early and treatable.

  10. Thank you so much for posting this, I really can’t thank you enough. I’m so nervous for my first colposcopy and it really does feel quite isolating since most of my friends/family aren’t familiar with the procedure or HPV. I was diagnosed at age 19 and can’t imagine what would’ve happened if I had just never gone in for that one random smear test! Your post and video made me feel SO much more comfortable with the whole thing. Thank you for being so open and spreading awareness!!

    • I’m so glad its helped you. It’s a difficult time for any woman to find herself in. I hope it goes smoothly for you. xx

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