womens health

Early Pregnancy Tests: How early is too early?

I keep seeing an advert on television where two friends are sitting chatting together when one says that she is two weeks pregnant. Her friend asks her if she has been to the doctor yet, and the pregnant lady replies “no, I took this new Clearblue test” .. and sure enough, she holds up the test and it states “Pregnant 1-2 weeks”.

Now I know I may not be very popular for expressing this opinion… particularly as I have not had a miscarriage myself. However I did bleed multiple times during the first 14 weeks of my pregnancy with my oldest child, and know the fear of miscarriage that accompanied every stomach cramp and every occasion of bleeding. I also know plenty of women that have had early miscarriages – literally in the first 6 weeks within finding out that they were pregnant. These friends have naturally and understandably been devastated and my heart goes out to them.

But it has also got me thinking about pregnancy tests. Science and technology has allowed us to find out we are pregnant earlier than ever before. If you think back less than a century, detecting pregnancy was based on old wives tales. In the 1920’s the urine of women who were suspected to be pregnant was injected into immature rats and mice, who would prematurely come into heat if the hormone hCG (which we know to be the hormone detected in current at home tests) was present. Thankfully testing has evolved a lot since then!

In fact it wasn’t until the 1970s that the first proper pregnancy tests came about, no doubt a by-product of the sexual revolution. However, these tests were still performed in laboratories. The first home EPT (Early Pregnancy Test) was launched in the U.S. in 1977.

Research has proven the importance of pre-natal care, particularly in the first trimester of pregnancy when the foetus is rapidly forming. So I can see why some people may feel that detecting pregnancy as early as possible is vital. However, I can’t help but think about the heartache that may be saved in those very early weeks if women simply didn’t know they were pregnant.

As I say, I haven’t had a miscarriage myself – but I remember clearly the first time I started bleeding with my eldest daughter. I was petrified, I cried constantly just waiting for it to be over, convinced I had miscarried. And the sporadic bleeding continued right the way through my first trimester – each time bringing with it a fresh wave of fear and heartbreak.

I have to wonder how many women could be spared that trauma, just by finding out that they were pregnant just a few weeks later. The NHS website states that “A miscarriage in the first few weeks can start like a period, with spotting or bleeding and mild cramps or backache”. If a woman didn’t know she was pregnant, surely she would just assume she was having a late period – as is so common anyway. Emotionally, wouldn’t it be far easier to accept a late period than a miscarriage?

Miscarriages are an unfortunate but common occurrence in early pregnancy, and almost always happen due to there being something wrong with the development of the foetus or another medical reason, and they cannot be prevented. However, if I was given the choice of knowing I was pregnant early and then suffering a miscarriage, or not knowing I was pregnant and then suffering a miscarriage – I know which I would prefer. For me, I would prefer to save the heartache that accompanies miscarriage.

Unfortunately I believe that these ultra-early detection pregnancy tests have the potential to increase the number of recognised miscarriages among women today, and personally I’m just not convinced that the benefit of knowing you are pregnant a couple of weeks earlier is really a benefit at all.

I would be interested to know your thoughts too. Would you rather know you had a miscarriage in the very first weeks of pregnancy, or would you prefer to avoid the heartbreak? How early is too early?

With Love

Dee

xoxox

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Book your f**cking smear test!

It seems very fitting that I am writing this blog post on World Cancer Day. It is also a strange coincidence that it was today that I had my smear test done. I’ve titled this blog post after something I say to so many women both in my friendship groups and on social media where I try and help spread the word about the importance of cervical screening.

For anyone that didn’t know, last month was Cervical Cancer Awareness Month.

FACT: 8 people every day are diagnosed with cervical cancer.

FACT: In 2012 I was one of them.

FACT: Because it was picked up early, I was able to have it removed with no need for chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

FACT: Cervical cancer screening can save lives. I’m proof.

So yes, it seems rather apt that I booked my smear test for today.

I keep hearing and reading so many statistics about the number of women that put off their smear tests. Yes it can be embarrassing – particularly if you’ve not had kids and you aren’t used to getting your foof out for all to see. Yes it can hurt – I wont lie (more in that in a minute), but so do tattoos, piercing and a whole host of other things people choose to do to their body. I love tattoos as much as the next ink freak, but they don’t save lives and they take a hell of a lot longer.

So back to me. I had a routine smear test in 2012 which came back with Cin3 changes. This is pretty much the next level of “abnormality” before cervical cancer. I had no clue anything was wrong other than cramps and some irregular bleeding, which I later found out *could* be symptoms of cervical-related problems. I was referred for a LLETZ treatment during which the cells are removed, and they are then sent for biopsy. A few days later I had a phone call telling me to go back and see the consultant who told me that they had found a very small amount of cancerous cells. As you can imagine my jaw hit the floor. However, the consultant was positive that they had removed it all, although they chose to take further biopsies to be sure. That is, as they say, a whole ‘nother story, but the upshot is that there was no more cancer and they had caught it before it had grown or spread.

I was incredibly lucky. I didn’t need any chemotherapy, any radiotherapy, any drugs or further treatment at all. All I had was a follow up colposcopy 6 and 12 months later, and now I have to have annual smear tests until 2022 – 10 years after the diagnosis.

Going for a smear test is emotionally and physically painful for me. It brings back bad memories, I suffer from anxiety in the weeks before and after whilst waiting for the results as I am statistically more likely to develop it again than someone who hasn’t had cancerous cells. And the actual procedure – for me – is something akin to a nurse shoving a red hot poker up my foof and wiggling it around for 30 seconds. I need to stress though – this ISN’T the norm. Most women don’t find it nearly as painful and some don’t really feel a thing. The reason that I do is because I had the majority of my cervix removed after my diagnosis, making what is left extremely difficult to reach. I’ve also had 2 children, 2 episiotomies and as such I affectionately refer to my lady bits as “frankenfanny”.

My nurse at my doctors, Caroline, is amazing. She lets me holler, swear, cry, whatever I need to do and always gives me a big hug after. She totally gets how difficult it is for me, and supports me throughout. I’m dropping in some flowers for her next week, as I really don’t know how I would get through it without her and she is the only reason I stay with my, quite frankly crappy, surgery.

But the point of this blog post it this: if I can go through the intense pain and stress it causes me on an annual basis then you can woman the hell up and have your 3-yearly smear test. You’ll be in there 10 minutes, less time than it takes you to blow dry your hair or apply your nail varnish. It could save your life and as such, it could be the most worthwhile 10 minutes of your life.

If you choose not to get your smear test done I would love to say you’ll live to regret it, but statistically many of you wont.

Please, for the sakes of your parents, your partners, your kids…. book your f**cking smear test!!!

Dee xoxox

 

Results relief!

Hey lovely readers, hope you are all well! Just a quick blog post to share my relief today as the results of my latest smear test hit the doormat.

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If any of you haven’t read my blog post on the importance if smear tests (and why the heck haven’t you!) then you won’t know that I was diagnosed with stage 1 (early) cervical cancer back in 2012 after a routine smear test. Since having the cells removed and recovering from further surgery after complications occurred, I now have to have a smear test every 12 months. Apparently studies show that if you have had cervical cancer once you are much more likely to get it again.

So every year the familiar dread creeps over me and I spend the time around both having the test and waiting for the results with an utter ball – and I’m talking boulder-sized ball – of stress in my belly.

So my result came today and I’m “normal”! Hurrah! The sense of relief is insurmountable. And hopefully I’m in the clear for another year now!

Smear tests save lives, it saved mine. #nofeargosmear

The importance of smear tests – my story (re-blogged)

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.

Starting at the – literal – bottom!

Just a quickie as I wanted to say something about a little teeny exciting thing I did over the last couple of days.

I was on Twitter the other day and one of the pages that I follow is @cervicalscreen1 a page that promotes the awareness of cervical screening and how vital a part it plays in detecting cervical cancer. This is a cause close to my heart as it was during a routine smear test in 2012 that I first discovered I was developing cancer. Anyway, they were looking for creative ideas/slogans to help raise awareness. I quickly came up with a couple of slogans, one of which they decided to put on a poster which they then retweeted out to their 3000+ followers.

From that, I was then contacted by one of their followers – Dr John O’Donohue aka @TheBottomDoc, who was also looking for a catchy slogan to help raise awareness of bowel cancer and bowel cancer screening. I was happy to oblige and came up with a slogan which he then retweeted to his followers.

I am so happy to be able to support these causes in just this little way, anything that raises awareness of cancer and the screening programs available to catch them early is vitally important.

This is the first time I am putting pics into a blog so hopefully this goes well…..

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