Scary Stats (source http://www.cancerscreening.nhs.uk/cervical/statistics.html) * in 2012-13 4.24 million women in the UK were invited to go for cervical screening * in 2012-13 only 3.32 million women were tested * currently only 78.3% of eligible women have been screened at least once in 5 years
I don’t tend to share a lot of personal information, but I feel that it is important that I share my story. I am hearing so many women say they are putting off having smear tests because it is painful, embarrassing or they don’t have time. YES it might be all of those things, but it is a routine test for a reason. A smear test is, in the UK at least, free to the majority of women. Those that aren’t eligible is a whole other blog I will do at some point. But the most important fact is this…..
FACT: A SMEAR TEST COULD SAVE YOUR LIFE
How do I know this? Well, because it has saved mine.
When I was 29 I went for a routine smear test. I had no real symptoms of anything sinister other than a bit of irregular bleeding. I had the test done and thought nothing of it. 3 weeks later the results came back saying that they had discovered CIN 3 changes. These are the most abnormal “changes” that they find short of seeing full-blown cancer. I was to be referred to a gynaecologist for a LLETZ treatment to remove the abnormal cells, which would then be sent off for biopsy. The NHS waiting list for the LLETZ treatment was 6-12 weeks. I was fortunate enough that my parents didn’t want me to wait til long and I was able to go to my local BUPA hospital to have it done privately, which I had done the following week.
The LLETZ was a painful procedure, I wont hide it from you. Burying your head in the sand over details achieves nothing. But it didn’t hurt half as much as getting a phone call the following week from the private gynaecologist asking me to “contact them urgently following the results of my biopsy”.
And it didn’t hurt as much as the moment my world fell through the floor when I heard the word CANCER. I was a month short of turning 30. Women my age didn’t get cervical cancer. They didn’t get any cancer.
FACT: CANCER DOESNT DISCRIMINATE
Cancer doesn’t give a shit if you are short, fat, old, young, pretty, ugly, a good person or a not so good one. Cancer is a bastard and it will go after anyone.
I was lucky. The biopsy showed only Grade 1a1 micro-invasive cancer. To put this into perspective something about the size of a full stop…… see all those full stops. I didn’t need chemotherapy or radiotherapy. The LLETZ had removed what they thought were all the abnormal cells. Although I had to have a follow up surgery to be sure – a cone biopsy which takes a bigger section of the cervix. This is a whole OTHER blog which I will do in the very near future.
The result of the second biopsy was good. They had removed the only trace of cancer they had found. Technically I am “a survivor”. I feel bad using the term as I didn’t have to endure even a fraction of the suffering many women have to. I now have to have yearly smear tests – and I wouldn’t dare to miss one.
The consultant drummed it into me…. the “what ifs”. What if I had skipped that smear test and waited 3 years for the next one? She said there is no doubt the cancer would have grown. By how much no-one knows. I don’t know what the outcome would have been. I am just grateful, so grateful, that I had smear test when I did.
I’m not telling this story for attention, or sympathy or anything else to do with me. This is a story for YOU – yes you reading this now. If even ONE person chooses not to put off their smear test because of this, then its worth it.
LADIES – check your diary. Due a smear? Book it TODAY – please. MEN – ask your wives, girlfriends, even mothers. and yes I said mothers, man up its not that embarrassing. Just ask them. Make sure they are up to date.
SMEAR TESTS SAVE LIVES. BOOK YOURS TODAY.