If you're reading this, you're probably in much the same position that I was in a few weeks ago. I had my first ever abnormal smear result: borderline changes with high risk HPV detected. Total panic ensued, followed by a lot of frantic googling to try to find out what this actually means.
One of the biggest problems for me at this point was that I have a full on phobia of hospitals. I am not talking getting nervous or not liking them here. I have variously got hysterical in the car park and run out of A&E in tears, both of these occasions being when I was not even in any danger of having anything done to me. In fact I was trying to pick up friends or family members from the hospital!
I spent 2 weeks researching what the 'borderline changes' might mean and what treatment I might need to have if they found anything undesirable down there .... and for most of that time I felt sick to my stomach and ready to burst into tears at any minute.
The one piece of advice that made me realise I had to find a way to deal with it was a lady, I think on this forum somewhere, who said something along the lines of "you owe it to yourself, the people you love and the people who love you to go get checked, and make sure that nothing bad happens to you". Which makes sense, also told myself that if I was getting into this much of a state about the colposcopy, ignoring it is hardly an option because imagine what a mess I'd be if ignoring meant that I needed some kind of grusome treatment one day.
I was coping very badly indeed with the phobia and realised I had to do something, so went for a session of Cognitive Hypnotherapy. It was very, very interesting and whilst not something that would normally appeal to me, the logic behind what they do to deal with phobias just seemed to make sense.
Hypno session was on Monday and I had 'homework' to listen to each day. I felt like it was working (for example, I couldnt stand to be around pregnant women before in case she went into labour and the whole situation turned 'medical', but on the Tuesday there was a pregnant lady next to me in the coffee queue at work and my reaction was little more than "oh, there's a pregnant lady") but of course the proof of the pudding was colposcopy day.
So this morning I was in the hospital. If you're feeling really scared about this, please please try to relax and if you find you can't, get some help. The following is my experience:
- Fisrt a little background: I am 44 years old, still take oral contraceptives, never had kids. All normal smears up til now
- Never had a big problem with smear tests. Relax and it's over in 2 minutes
- My appointment in colposcopy started with meeting the very nice doctor, with the nurse in attendance, where she took some more background info and showed me what she had received in terms of the results from the screening program
- Then next door to get changed. I had the choice of putting on a gown but as I had worn a full skirt just opted for underwear removal
- Into the treatment room. Ours had more of a sort of chair, with padded bits that you can put your feet up on. The nurse can then recline it for you to get you into a comfy position. Easier said than done, I know, but the more you can relax the easier it is. Mine had the radio playing and the nurses chatted to me about mundane stuff which both made it a bit less 'medical'
- I had the impression that the speculum was possibly smaller than the one my doc uses for the smear, either that of the doctor was just a dab hand with it
- The colposcope itself it smaller and less obtrusive than I expected and not intimidating at all. To be honest, you can't really see much of what's going on at the business end anyway
- I didn't feel any stinging when solutions were applied to the cervix (the doc warned me that I might). It feels a bit odd, but mainly because it's not a part of you that anyone normally touches I think!
- She did see some changes, but couldn't really tell any more than the smear had already shown, so she took 3 biopsies. As many other forum users have said, you'll be asked to cough as she takes the biopsies, and honestly I didn't feel a thing. I was told to expect a little pinch, but didn't feel it.
- The doctor was very sympathetic and asked me several times whether I had any discomfort. Honestly, I promise you, there was no pain and no discomfort. The only thing that is uncomfortable is that it is not natural to be able to feel someone touching bits inside you, so it feels wierd. Not painful, not uncomfortable, just wierd!
- Last thing was something to stop any bleeding after the biopsies. Again feels a bit odd, but only because something is being touched to something that is not normally touched!
- Back home now and I feel fine, just a very slight twinge I guess like a small period pain from time to time.
So I've got a 4 week wait to see what comes back from the biopsies. If it's mild changes, we'll wait and see what it looks like next year. If it's more towards moderate, I'll ne back for LLETZ treatment to take care of it once and for all.
One word of warning, the doc did say that if a woman is very anxious and it seems likely that they would spend the intervening year in a fit of worry, they will recommend immmediate treatment even for mild changes. You might want to bear this in mind if you want to avoid any unnecessary treatment!
Last but not least, if you have a phobia or are so anxious about the whole thing that it's taking over your life, please please get some help. It does work - my doctor this morning said that I would most likely be the calmest and least stressed out of all of her patients today. To go from having hysterics at the sight of a hospital to that in a week just goes to show that it can be done. Please don't suffer in silence.
In summary, colposcopy would not be my choice for a grand day out, but it really isnt that bad either.
Good luck to all of you ladies in the same position, and I really hope that this helps to reassure some of you a little.
Be safe and healthy x x x