As our partnership with the fabulous Eve Appeal begins, we thought we would share with you a personal case history to encourage anyone who is still in doubt, to go for their smear.
Cervical Cancer is dangerous but preventable
Did you know that every day in the UK, eight women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and three women will lose their lives to the disease? Cervical cancer is largely preventable thanks to cervical screening. However, uptake of cervical screening is now going down year on year. Early detection is key to increasing survival rates as this case study demonstrates.
Summer 2012. I’d just graduated from uni, and was approaching my 25th birthday. I’d recently moved in with my boyfriend and was doing some serious graduate job hunting when I started to notice that things weren’t quite right. Sex had started to become really painful, I was bleeding afterwards, and I’d started spotting between my periods. I wasn’t enormously concerned though, I assumed I’d just have some kind of infection or whatever, but carted myself off to the doctors anyway. My GP did an exam straight away, spotted a bit of blood around my cervix, and booked me straight in for a smear.
It was a Wednesday when the results came in. I arrived home after work to a letter. I needed to make an appointment with my doctor to discuss the results ASAP, as my smear had shown cell changes that needed to be investigated further. I was absolutely terrified. I was only just approaching 25, my whole life was ahead of me – what if it was something really scary? The GP referred me to the colposcopy team at my local hospital for a biopsy to assess the extent of the abnormality, which turned out to be CIN3 level changes. I was back a couple of weeks later for a full colposcopy to remove the abnormal cells. Six weeks of spotting later and a follow up with the Gynae consultant and I was good to go again.
CIN3 is definitely not as scary as the Big C, but can develop into full blown cervical cancer if left untreated. In a way, I think I was lucky to have symptoms that were interfering with my day to day life, and importantly my sex life. Had I not been showing symptoms, I might have later received my smear test invitation after my 25th birthday and ‘been too busy’ or a bit too preoccupied with my new life post uni with my amazing partner. Cervical cancer abnormalities don’t always show symptoms so I’m definitely an advocate for getting checked regularly too. Speculums are a bit gross (duck beak anyone?!) but any discomfort that you may feel during a smear is over in a few seconds, and isn’t that few seconds worth potentially saving your life?
Don’t ignore it if your vagina is not ‘right’
My top advice: If you have any weird symptoms in your vagina or lower abdomen, get it checked out straight away. And if you don’t have any weird symptoms, have a smear every 3-5 years anyway.