This is my first post, after reading hours and hours on the website, so bear with me!
I wanted to give my honest (and detailed) experience of my whole process so far since my smear. Please note this is a long post as I want to try and give as much information as possible!! The reason I am doing this, is to hopefully put other ladies minds at ease that may be going through the same situation, or who are early on in the process and don't know what to expect. There are plenty of helpful posts on here with details and discussions, but giving the minor details that sometimes people don't post or talk about leaves you searching hours upon hours on the internet trying to find your answer! So here it goes...
I turned 25 earlier on this year, and regardless of receiving numerous letters from my GP asking me to book an appointment for my first smear test, I kept putting it off. It was only until I was sat at my doctors a few months down the line when I was asking for a repeat prescription of antibiotics for BV (I have suffered with BV for years and have only this year gone to the doctors about it to have it treated, they give me metronidazole which clears it but as soon as I have my next period the pH in the menstrual blood changes the acidity and it reoccurs every month) anyway, the Dr said it's really important on top of treating BV to have a smear, so I took the plunge and booked the appointment. Girls, PLEASE don't put off having a smear, the process is fine and it is so so important (I've only learnt this from what's happened next!).
It was the day of my smear test, I was anxious as I didn't know what to expect, people told me it doesn’t hurt and it’s just a little uncomfortable. I had a lovely senior nurse who was very gentle and calming. Firstly, they will ask questions about you. What contraception you use, if you have any unusual spotting/pain during sex, when your last period was etc. They then ask you to lie on a bed and undress from the waist down and put a sheet over your lap. They will ask you to spread your legs and put your feet flat on the bed. The nurse explained every step she was doing but also tried to take my mind off the process by general chit chat. They insert the speculum (very gently), and this was maybe the most uncomfortable part when they open the speculum to be able to see your cervix. It does not hurt; it’s just a strange feeling. The actual instrument they use (the wand with the soft bristles on the end) could barely be felt, and it was over in a matter of seconds. The whole treatment probably took no longer than 1 minute. I popped off the couch and was told I would have results within 2 weeks by writing.
Lone behold, exactly one week after my appointment I came home to a letter. It said they found abnormal cells and that I have High Grade dyskaryosis. At first, I looked at the word and had no idea what that meant. They mentioned in the letter that I need to go for a Colposcopy and they will send me an appointment in the post. They provided leaflets with the different types of abnormal cells, where it explained dyskaryosis in more detail. When I read that mine was the higher end, I did the fatal task of googling the word. This is the worst thing you can do, as you know it brings up so many topics, pictures and information that makes you fear for the worst. When I saw one image showing 'high grade' was one down from cancer, I burst into tears. I was a nervous mess for the whole evening and next day (which included me crying at work much to my colleagues delight). I came home from work that day to another letter with my appointment, 1.5 weeks from the date of receiving my results. This made me panic more - why have they sent an appointment so soon, is my result really that bad they have to see me quickly? Panic set in and the waiting was putting me down.
In this space of time, I was due my period the day AFTER my Colposcopy date. However, it came early on the Monday before my appointment. I panicked thinking I will be on my period for the Colposcopy, and they usually want you to re-book if this is the case. I phoned on Tuesday AM and asked for their advice; they said if it is really light/the end of your period, come in. If it is heavy, you need to reschedule.
So, the day of my Colposcopy arrived, an appointment at 2.00pm on a Friday at my local hospital (at least I had the weekend to relax!). My period was at the very end/extremely light, so I went along. Firstly, the consultant will sit you down and talk through a few points (similar to your smear - last period, contraception, smoking etc.). She asked how I felt, to which my reply was 'nervous'. She asked if this was due to what was going to happen next, or the results. My reply was both. The consultant put me at ease and said my results actually came back 'moderate' rather than severe. Because of this, and because it was my first smear and the fact I was nervous, she said she only wants to do biopsies on me today, not treatment. She explained 'moderate' results can sometimes rectify themselves. She explained they will be using the colposcopy to look at the cervix and that there will be a screen with the camera where I can see what is happening.
So she took me into the room with the bed and stirrups, and two other assistants were with her. They asked me to dress from waist down and put the sheet around me and pop myself on the bed and to lift my legs onto the stirrups. They inserted the speculum and opened this to see my cervix. I could see everything the consultant was seeing thanks to the screen on my left. From looking at it first glance, it looked 'healthy' (to me), like a normal cervix. The Consultant took a picture of it (for their records) and said she was going to put a solution on (which is acidic and warned it may sting) to show up any abnormal cells. It didn't sting. I looked at the camera and to my amazement I could see cells changing colour to white where my 'abnormal' cells are. It panicked me; I said the area looks rather large. The consultant advised it isn't such a big area and held a cotton bud to my cervix to compare the sizes. She looked over my cervix and made a comment to the assistants that she thinks there is a case of HPV, and the cells near the middle of my cervix look 'moderate' but the cells to the bottom left of the cervix look a little more severe. She said I will most likely have to come back for treatment. In the meantime, she talked me through the process of the biopsies. It includes using this tool (I didn't watch the screen at this point, it didn't look pretty!) which 'punches' holes out of the cervix. They do not give you any local anaesthetic or anything to numb the area, she just said you may feel a pinch. I won’t lie, it was a horrible sensation. It felt like pulling, and I think the sound of the punch was worse than the feeling, but the thought of it just made me queasy. The assistants were checking I was OK and to look out of the window, and the consultant looked up and regularly asked if I was OK and made a joke that I looked as though I was 'gritting my teeth' (I probably was! having 3 people look at your lady garden and cut a sample off you wasn't the easiest of tasks!)
I said to the consultant, if you are doing this now for biopsies, why can’t she just do the treatment now (LLETZ) and get it out of the way. Her reply was she would rather wait for the results first, and as it being my first smear, I was under the impression she didn't want me to go through both in my first colposcopy. After two biopsies were taken (one on the moderate cell area and one on the severe cell area) the consultant then explained she was using silver nitrate to 'seal' the blood vessels to stop bleeding. Now, I am a smoker and I understand smoking thins your blood (normally directly after a cigarette - not 'long term'). One of the biopsies would not stop bleeding, so I looked at the screen and saw the little 'bullet' shaped silver nitrate she was pushing onto my cervix to burn the cells. This felt really uncomfortable, (sorry for TMI but if you have sexual intercourse and they go 'too deep'! and it hits your cervix) it felt like this constantly, and I had instant period pain cramps. Every time she pushed on it, it felt the same as the first time. I would probably say this was the most uncomfortable part of the process but it wasn't painful - I could manage it. Watching her do this process was a little gross, the cells on the cervix would turn brown/black/silver (just like internal skin being burnt) but I probably chose to watch at the worst part, as the one biopsy that wouldn’t 'seal', it was also pulling off the dead skin that she had previously burnt. It wasn’t a pretty sight so I thought the best option would be to look out the window.
After she was happy the bleeding had stopped, she removed the speculum and asked me to slowly sit up when I feel comfortable. She explained I would expect to see results within 2 - 3 weeks by writing from the biopsies. She explained the other assistants would now assist me and she will be in touch soon. She left the room, and the assistants asked if I would like any pain relief (in the way of paracetamol/ibuprofen) to which I said yes. Now I am someone to have a high pain threshold but this felt like a very heavy period pain and I knew I would want something to ease it a little. I popped two paracetamols in my mouth and I got dressed. They said there are pads in the changing area and to use one if I wish. The consultant did advise I will have 'black gooey discharge' for a couple of days after this procedure. So make sure you're wearing panties to this appointment and not string underwear as you may feel a little uncomfortable trying to put a pad on it!! I was given an information sheet on post cervical biopsy and also the LLETZ treatment (which I also received with my first letter with my results from my smear).
So, the remainder of the day I felt like I had been punched in my womb, it felt like a period pain (but probably worse than what I am normally used to). I spent the rest of the day with a hot water bottle on my stomach and taking paracetamol when required, and just relaxed. The next day I woke up feeling much better and no pain. They advise you to be careful/gentle with your activities after a biopsy as to not dislodge the clot that can cause it to start bleeding again, but you can return to your normal routine shortly afterwards. The consultant advised no tampons and no sex for 4 weeks.
You will read different comments online, but the 'discharge' you have after the biopsy is different per person. I had this dark brown discharge for 7 days after my biopsy. This meant I had to use pads all day every day in case it got heavier. I noticed sometimes I had these 'coffee granules' on the pad or 'stringy flesh/brown coloured' parts with the discharge. I obviously panicked not knowing what it was so I googled it, and much to my surprise it is common, and a lot of woman have this. It is just from the Silver Nitrate/dead skin cells from the cervix healing and leaving your body - so DO NOT PANIC! :-) You may also notice a small amount of blood whilst you go to the toilet; again, nothing to worry about it is just healing. I read online if you have extremely heaving bleeding (soaking through a pan an hour) after your biopsy, you have probably dislodged the clot and it is bleeding. If it carries on for a day or so you should see your GP/contact the clinic as they may want to seal the vessels again. Fortunately, mine were OK and I had no serious bleeding.
So, it has been 2 weeks since my appointment and I am still awaiting my results. I am VERY nervous and it has been playing on my mind over these last few weeks. I can probably guarantee I will need to go back for treatment (as the consultant pointed out) but it all depends on the results of the biopsies. I have googled LLETZ various times and I completely understand the procedure, I have friends that have had it done and I know so many of you on here have had it. I am extremely nervous of the local anaesthetic injection (ouch!) on the cervix, and the aftermath (if I am going to have the same discharge/if I may bleed profusely afterwards) etc. It is a waiting game, as it will be for a lot of you. The procedure from start (smear test) to now (post biopsy) hasn't been too bad looking back on it now, but I know at the time you fear for the worst and it is hard to put your mind at ease.
I know there may be a chance that my biopsy may come back saying I may have CC. I know there is a chance it will come back saying I have CIN2/CIN3 (severe grade) and that I need treatment. But I am also hopeful it comes back saying it is nothing more than moderate, and the consultant may say leave it for 6 months, come back for a check-up and it may rectify itself. Just keep positive, it happens to thousands of us ladies and the good thing about treatment (LLETZ) is it is easily curable and it is normally very successful.
I'm sorry for the extremely long post, I hope I've given enough information (if not TMI!) so people know what to expect if they are in this situation. If anyone is at the same stage as me please let me know - it would be lovely to see how you are coping and your thoughts so far, and what your results come back as if you've had exactly the same.
And most importantly, hopefully this will make you realise how IMPORTANT smear tests are. I certainly know that when my next one (which will probably be 6 months/yearly for a while, even when it reverts back to 3 years,) is due, there will be NO excuses for missing an appointment - I will be jumping at the opportunity to be checked to make sure everything is OK. What if I never went to this smear, what if my abnormal cells escalated to cancer a few years down the line, just because I was afraid of going for a test?
It’s not nice having to have your laden garden on show to strangers, but it is so so important and I can’t reiterate how much I would like people to go.
If any of you have any questions please ask, I would love to hear your stories/concerns!!