It’s cervical smear awareness month and we’ve all seen the ads on TV with the 4 women sitting around having a good old laugh about getting their smears done. Even with such brilliant advertising it’s still easy for us to “put it off” or “worry about it later”.
Here’s a story from a member who would like to share her experience. It should be a good wake up call for anyone who maybe hasn’t been for a smear recently.
“A few months ago I had my regular smear, thinking everything was all OK, but was shocked when the
Doctor rang me and told me I had “abnormal cells” and needed to see a specialist. I consider myself to
be quite healthy- I work out regularly (I love True Woman!), don’t smoke, am a healthy weight and eat a
very healthy diet. So it was a real shock to learn I wasn’t so healthy after all…
I saw a specialist within a few days, who explained the possibilities with me and took another smear
to double check the original results. He explained that most people in NZ carry the virus (unbeknown
to them) and while many people get stage 1 at some point in their lives, most often your body fights
it and the cells go back to normal. For 10-15% of women the cells develop into Stage 2, which needs
monitoring. A lower number of women develop to Stage 3, which requires surgery to remove the
affected cells. Stage 4 is –scary- cervical cancer.
At that time he said that if he didn’t like what he saw he’d take a biopsy, and he ended up taking two,
so I was not feeling so great about the diagnosis. Within a week my diagnosis was confirmed as Stage 3
and I was shocked at how bad it was when I considered myself so healthy, but relieved it wasn’t stage 4.
I was quickly booked in for surgery and, as I had a bad reaction to the biopsies (fainting), I was put under
for a couple of hours while they removed the affected cells. I spent the next 3-4 days in bed and on the
couch, with pain that felt like bad period pain and with strict instructions to rest. Exercise was put on
hold for 3 weeks while my body recovered and I wasn’t even allowed to lift grocery bags or a basket full
of washing (what a shame!). Luckily I didn’t have any complications and recovered well. I have a check
up with the specialist in a few months and will forever make sure I get a smear every year, just in case!
I can’t encourage you enough to get a regular smear- 5 seconds of discomfort can ensure early detection
of mutating cells- the cells can be removed before they develop into cervical cancer. Having said that,
I’m recommending to all of my friends to get a smear every 1-2 years, rather than waiting every 3 years,
as I went from normal to stage 3 in less than 3 years! If I had of waited just another year it could have
easily developed further.”
Anon, aged 27 yrs.