Cervical Screening could save your life!

In 2017 I was diagnosed with cervical cancer after attending a routine cervical screening appointment. It was not something that was on my radar, I hadn't even considered it a possibility, but it is thanks to cervical screening that I am still here today. That routine test saved my life, and I cannot think about what might've been if I hadn't had that screening. That's why I'm here today, to tell you why cervical screening could save your life.

About Cervical Screening

The examination itself takes about 5 minutes. Yes, that's right - just five minutes and it could save your life. 

It can be uncomfortable for some women, me included, and so I tend do try breathing exercises to calm myself down. In the past the doctor has advised me to take painkillers before the cervical screening to help with any pain, and it does help. 

Cervical Screening Could Save Your Life! | I am thankful every day.

You should also consider the clothes you're wearing. If you're going to be uncomfortable stripping down then wear a long skirt that you can hitch up, that way you may feel more covered.

I can understand why some women are uncomfortable or even afraid of going to their cervical screening appointment. It's a scary thing to think this is to test for cervical cancer. But actually cervical screening is done to prevent cervical cancer from developing. The screening tests your cells and should identify if any of your cells have changed. If there are any abnormal changes to your cells you'll be contacted so further checks can be done. By having your cervical screening any abnormal changes can be detected and the earlier these changes are found the easier the treatment.

If you'd like to read more the NHS website is a great place to start.

A few facts

  • 1 in 10 people will have an abnormal result after cervical screening - about 220,000 women every year.

  • Cervical cancer is rare thanks to screening and early treatment - our screening programme saves 5,000 lives every year.

  • 80% of people who have treatment won't have cell changes again.

Sometimes you get to choose your battles and sometimes the battle chooses you.

My experience

Back in 2017 I attended my cervical screening appointment after being nagged by the Hubby. My reminder letter had been sitting on the kitchen counter for weeks. Finally I went and I never imagined anything would come of it.

Three weeks to the day later I received a letter that told me I needed further checks. Thanks to the cervical screening they had found I had high-grade dyskariosis - this means my cells had changed a lot and I needed further tests, and possibly treatment. This was a scary letter to receive, I had no idea what high-grade dyskariosis was or that it was any indication of what was to come. 

I had to go to the hospital for them to do a colposcopy - that's like a cervical screening but this time instead of using a tiny little brush to check your cells they use a microscope to look at your cervix and determine if you need further treatment. During my colposcopy the doctor decided to do the treatment then and there. It was basically surgery - where they took cut out some of my cervix in order to test it later. Using a device which had wire to cut out the cells they did the surgery and told me everything should be fine and it was all just as a precaution. 

First of all the surgery was uncomfortable. Very. I was in a lot of pain, despite anaesthetic, and I was very scared. The nurse was lovely though, and tried chatting to me the entire time. The surgery had recovery time too - I couldn't go for a swim for 6 weeks, I couldn't have a bath, and I wasn't allowed to have sex. Certainly not what I had expected when I went for that first check. 

But what came next was the biggest shock I have ever had. A letter first, that said the doctor wanted to discuss results. Again I went to the hospital to chat to the doctor, and this time Hubby went with me. That's when the doctor told me I had cervical cancer. They'd tested the cells they removed and found cancer. I was stunned - I think I sat there with a stupid smile on my face unable to take it in. 

The doctor said the cancer was very small, but as a precaution they wanted to do the colposcopy and surgery again, to make sure they'd cut out all the cancer. So after my 6 weeks recovery, and an extra week for good measure, I was back in the hospital having more surgery. More recovery time. More restrictions. And the second time the surgery was more painful. But to be honest I was happy for them to do it if it meant making sure I didn't still have cancer.

A couple of weeks later my doctor called me - the first time a doctor has phoned me, EVER. It was good news, and I cried over the phone! I was so pleased that they hadn't found more cancer. Because of the diagnosis I'd had to discuss things like hysterectomy and other options if they'd found more cancer. Thankfully I didn't have to worry about those things now. 

So how are things now?

I had no idea that that first cervical screening appointment could save my life. I mean, you hear it all the time but you don't actually think it'll happen to you. You think it's just one of those things that doesn't happen to real people - but it does.

Cervical Screening Could Save Your Life! | I am so thankful I'm still here for my boys.
If it weren't for cervical screening I may not be here today.

After my surgeries I had to have more regular screening - basically more colposcopies without the surgery. Every 6 months following my diagnosis I had to go back to the hospital for the doctor to check my cervix and make sure the cancer hadn't returned. This September, if everything is okay, I go to annual checks - still at the hospital. But if things stay the same eventually I'll be able to go back to regular cervical screening. That day can't come quick enough!

Still scared of cervical screening?

I hated going for my cervical screening, I was always uncomfortable and it hurt. But now I'm looking forward to having regular cervical screening because I've had to go through the colposcopy and surgery. Every 3 years? Yes please. At the moment my checks are every 6 months, and hopefully going to annually soon. Attending a routine cervical screening appointment at my local doctor's surgery, every 3 years, sounds brilliant to me.

Thanks to the cervical screening I am still here for my boys. I haven't had to go through chemotherapy because the cancer was small enough to be cut away. I am healthy (for the most part) and happy, and the cervical screening programme really did save my life.

A smear test lasts 5 minutes. The impact of cervical cancer lasts a lifetime.

The chances of you being diagnosed with cervical cancer are very low, but wouldn't you want to catch it early if you were diagnosed? 

That's why cervical screening is so important. Those 5 minutes you're uncomfortable could save your life.

Cervical Screening Could Save Your Life! | I am here today thanks to cervical screening.

If you've been diagnosed with cervical cancer, or experienced cell changes, or just want to chat, Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust is a great website that offers support to women who have experience these issues.

When did you last attend a cervical screening?

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