I’ve never been particularly squeamish or anxious about pap smears – I’ve always thought of it as just something you need to do. It’s probably less awkward and uncomfortable than getting a Brazilian which I do without second thought.
I had an appointment with my doctor to discuss the results and she told me they’d come back with a high-grade abnormality. This was a big shock because I didn’t know much about this and there was a small chance that I could have cervical cancer. I was pretty upset initially, especially telling my partner and friends and parents but they were all very supportive. At the same time, my grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer so I was particularly worried about it being cancer and that I might have a higher genetic risk.
The diagnosis was positive for HPV and CIN3 which is a high grade abnormality. I went in to hospital for an initial cervical biopsy and colposcopy. This confirmed the CIN3 and ruled out cervical cancer. Soon after that I went back to hospital for a LEEP procedure, which is a small laser that removes the abnormal cells, performed under local anaesthetic. I had a follow up biopsy and colposcopy which confirmed the cells had been removed. I had a day of rest following the procedure and couldn’t swim or use tampons for about six weeks after to minimise the risk of infection. For two years after that I went back into hospital every six months for biopsies but they all came back with no abnormalities so now I have annual pap smears at my doctor.
It’s just a moment of discomfort for what could very well save your life. We’re so lucky that there are screening tests for breast and cervical cancer so that the survival rates are much higher than they used to be, and in some cases cancer can be prevented all together.
Inspired to get screened? Good. Research by life insurance specialist TAL found that 73 per cent of Australians admit to not having a test they believe is relevant to them and 33 per cent of women have never had a preventative screening test for cervical cancer. That means millions of us are missing out on the crucial opportunity to detect disease early. If this is you, see your GP ASAP and make your health a top priority.