Having a Colposcopy is the second part of this mini series. If you haven’t read Cervical Screening – Why You Need To Go yet then pop over there first and come back to this one.
But just to recap: I had my routine Smear, PAP test, Cervical Screen, whatever you want to call it. The tests showed positive for HPV and evidence of abnormal cells.
The letter that comes through the post sounds terrifying! Your brain automatically goes “You have cancer!”, though the likelihood is actually relatively small. After doing some googling and talking to some of my friends, I was a lot less worried. For once, Google wasn’t the enemy and there was actually some useful information.
The amount of people I’ve spoken to that have had abnormal cells is insane! It’s so common that actually, I seem to have previously been in more of a minority by having clear results!
The appointment for having my Colposcopy came through within a couple of weeks. They weren’t hanging about!
A Colposcopy is is a detailed examination of your cervix using a colposcope which is like a pair of binoculars. A trained doctor or nurse will have a look at the abnormal cells and decide whether to treat you there and then or if they need to do a biopsy.
I was seen by a fantastic team of nurses who made the experience much more comfortable. For me, having a specially trained nurse performing the procedure put my mind at ease. In my opinion they are far more highly trained as they specialise in that area. Doctors tend to be trained in a lot more than one thing. I’m sure I would have been in safe hands either way but I am so glad I had the nurse I did.
You get sent a leaflet about having a Colposcopy and the further procedures but you still don’t really know how it’s going to go. I went to the hospital on my own as the leaflets say you will be capable of getting on with things even if they do a procedure. Nerves hadn’t really hit me when I turned up, it was walking in to the room and seeing the bed/chair with the leg rests. Reality hit me at that point.
I sat down with the lead nurse and she talked me through what was going to happen. She reassured me that the chance of it being cancer is slim but it’s quite likely that she will remove the abnormal cells there and then. This treatment is called a Large Loop Excision Of The Transformation Zone.
Basically, the cervix contains 2 kinds of cells: Rectangular Columnar cells and flat Squamous cells. The Columnar cells are constantly changing into Squamous cells in an area called the Transformation Zone. It’s in this transformation zone that abnormal cells tend to develop.
A Large Loop Excision Of The Transformation Zone (LLETZ) is a safe and simple procedure to remove unhealthy tissue. It’s literally a loop of wire that’s heated up to cut through the tissue. You are given anesthetic so it should be painless.
I was asked to remove my clothing from the waist down and given a (not so) beautiful hospital gown to put on. I was then taken through to the scary looking chair and made comfortable.
Having a Colposcopy isn’t as scary as it sounds.
As before, a speculum is inserted so the cervix is visible. My nurse had a look and decided she was going to preform the LLETZ there and then.
An electrical pad was stuck to my leg. I’d tell you why, but I can’t recall that part. I know it was something to do with the fact they use electricity to heat the loop. I’m guessing it stops me from being electrocuted. The cervix is injected with a local anesthetic mixed with adrenaline. It made my legs shake quite a bit but it soon settled down again. Once numb, the work can begin.
The injections were quite uncomfortable but it doesn’t last long. I couldn’t feel a thing while the LLETZ was being done and was quite happy chatting away to the 3 nurses.
It should usually take around 20 minutes. Mine did not. I had quite a large lump removed but I wouldn’t stop bleeding. After they remove the cells you are left with a raw surface which is quaterised but I had one little vessel that just wouldn’t close off. It did eventually (obviously) but it took longer than it should have.
And that was it, all over and done with!
I had a look at the before and after photos and saw the lump that had been removed. Want to see the photos? I know you do! Quickly scroll down if you’re a little squeamish.
I was then talked through the do’s and don’ts during the healing process and given a cup of coffee while my body got rid of the adrenaline.
I was warned that I would feel sore later on, once the anesthetic had worn off. The only way to describe what I felt is period pains mixed with contractions that didn’t go away. I did take some painkillers that night but I had an unusually large amount taken.
The following day I was fine though! I still had a little stomach ache but nothing too bad and I went to work like normal.
Just over a week down the line and I wouldn’t even know I’d had anything done. It takes 4 weeks to heal in full. The only noticeable thing was a pinkish discharge but that should disappear as you heal.
The lump was sent off for testing and I was told the results would be back in 3 to 4 weeks.
2 weeks after having a colposcopy….
I got a phone call from the consultant while I was away in the beautiful Isle of Wight. My results were in and they wanted me to go in and have a chat. The appointment was booked for the following Monday and I didn’t really think any more about it.
I went along to my appointment and the lead nurse from my Colposcopy was there to greet me. She took me in to meet the consultant and that’s when they told me….. I had Cancer. Low grade but cancer nonetheless.
I say “had” as the Colposcopy should have removed the cancerous cells. There had been enough taken away that there was clean tissue around it. To be completely sure though, I had another Colposcopy there and then and another LETTZ to remove further tissue for testing. They need to be sure they removed it all and it’s the only way to do it.
I’ve got to start the healing process all over again but hey, I’d rather be sore again than have Cancer.
The procedure was done, this time by the consultant with my nurse by my side talking me through it and discussing irrelevant things to take my mind off it. I think it was actually easier the second time around as I knew what to expect.
When it was over, my lovely nurse took me off to a quiet room and made us a cup of tea. She explained that she wasn’t even meant to be at work but she nearly cried herself when she saw my results. She was so certain I’d come back all clear but it’s low grade so it wasn’t obvious.
We sat and chatted about how I was feeling about it all and she told me I scare her. Though I obviously had a bit of a cry, I brush these things off. It’s not that it hadn’t hit me, it had, hard! But what can I do?
As far as I’m concerned, they’ve done what needs to be done. If the next test comes back clear then I’m clear and I will have yearly smears to make sure it stays that way. If it doesn’t come back clear then I’ll have surgery to remove my entire cervix and possibly my womb too.
I’m not going to let it bother me, and I’m not sharing this story for sympathy. I just want it to resonate with someone. If this can get one woman to go for her smear then I feel like I’ve done something.
Had I not gone for that initial smear, I could be in a lot more trouble right now. Another year or so down the line and I could have been writing a very different story.
That’s all on my story for now. I may write more depending on what happens next but we will see.
I’d just like to say a massive thank you to everyone around me, my other half, my family and the amazing friends I have. Your support is overwhelming. But a special thank you to my nurse. I honestly love this woman and I feel so lucky to have her supporting me through this. I know it’s her job but she has gone above and beyond.
Please ladies, go for your smears!