If you read my first Never Fear Your Smear, you will have read that my results came back HPV positive and abnormal and I was awaiting confirmation of my colposcopy clinic appointment. I have since had my appointment and received the results from my examination.
So as a little carry on I thought I would share my experience, information that might help you, explain what happened during the appointment and what will happen next.
RECEIVING THE RESULTS FROM MY SMEAR TEST
When I was initially researching into smear tests and learning about the screening it never really occurred to me to consider the next steps if my results didn’t come back negative. The emotions that fled through my body when I read my results letter was overwhelming, I didn’t know how to feel – grateful that I had made the right decision to face the screening and this abnormality had been alerted, nervous as to what is next to come, scared as to what the results of my colposcopy could show, sad that something was amiss. It honestly shuck me and for a while I presumed the worst. Then came more research. Thankfully this grounded me again and cleared up a few questions and worries I was feeling.
What is a colposcopy?
A colposcopy is an examination to check the health of your cervix. A nurse or doctor will look at your cervix using a colposcope (which look a little like binoculars) to examine your cervix.
Why do I need a colposcopy?
You will have been invited for a colposcopy appointment for several reasons.
- Your smear test showed some changes in the cells of your cervix
- Your smear test has shown that HPV is present which can cause cell changes
- Or you have had a smear test but the examination couldn’t give you a result.
What does cell changes mean?
If changes are seen in the cells taken from your screening test there is a chance they will need to be treated.
Most ‘low grade’ changes do not need treatment, but your colposcopist will decide upon examining your cervix.
If you have ‘high grade’ changes these will need to be treated to avoid them becoming cancerous.
What happens during the examination?
Once I’d checked into the clinic I was first seen to confirm my details and talk through the results that came from my smear test which showed a low sign of cell change. The nurse talked me through, in great detail, why I had been invited to clinic, what would happen during the examination, what the doctor would be looking for and how they would proceed if a high cell change was found.
The nurse explained everything very clearly and cleared up a few grey areas. It also gave me the opportunity to ask any questions and let the nurse know know about my current health.
I was then directed to a changing room where the department provided a hospital gown and disposable overshoes to cover my socks. Just like when you have your smear test you are asked to undress from the waist down. Having the gown was actually really nice and made me feel far more comfortable. I then walked into the doctors room where I was asked to lie on a bed and put my legs into supports.
During the examination there was a nurse and a doctor in the room (both female).
A speculum is then inserted into your vagina which gently opens your cervix. A microscope with a light is used to look at your cervix – this does not touch or enter your body. A liquid, usually iodine, is then applied to your cervix to highlight any abnormal areas. Depending on what the doctors examines you may have to have a small sample of tissue (a biopsy) removed which will be looked at closer in a laboratory.
The entire examination lasted about 10-15 mins roughly, but I guess everyones examination will be different. The nurse and doctor were very calming, talking me through every step and I felt no discomfort.
How is a biopsy taken?
So I had 3 biopsies. First the doctor put iodine on my cervix where there was signs of a high cell change. She then applied a treatment which basically numbed the skin. Using what I can only describe as small scissor-like-things she snipped a little sample of skin – I did not feel a thing – and this was then deposited into a sample dish for the lab.
Is the examination uncomfortable?
From my own examination I didn’t actually experience any discomfort or pain, but everyone has different experiences. The nurse and doctor were very helpful and careful, they checked in on me throughout the entire examination and double checked how I was feeling before leaving the department to drive home.
Should you feel any discomfort at any time or feel unwell tell your nurse/doctor straight away.
Is there a screen where you can view the examination?
Yes, so the view in which the doctor has by looking through the microscope is displayed on a monitor in the same room. Now you can either chose to view the monitor as well or it can be adjusted so it’s not insight. Personally I found this very settling to watch. Strange I know, but, I think it was because A) I did a lot of clinical photography as work experience at university so found I found it very interesting and B) being able to see for yourself what the doctor was looking for/at and having her explain what she was doing was really helpful to put words with image and understand my body and the importance of the examination.
Are there any side affects from the colposcopy?
There are a few side affects that may occur after your colposcopy including:
- light bleeding for several days
- period pain feeling but this should pass in a few hours
What if I need treatment?
Depending on the result of your biopsie will depend on whether you need treatment.
During my examination I was told that I would most likely need treatment as it was clear that there was a high cell change. But they wanted to further examine the biopsies and would get in touch in 3-4 weeks to let me know the best next step.
What if I am unwell or have problems after my colposcopy?
If you are unwell after your colposcopy such as heavy bleeding you are advised to go to A&E, explain the treatment you have had and you will be seen to, or contact the clinic you visited for help.
RECEIVING THE RESULTS OF MY BIOPSIE
I received my results my telephone 4 weeks later, you may receive yours in the post. The biopsy indicated a low cell change, CIN level 1 and that I shouldn’t need any treatment.
I was then told that they will be reviewing my case at the end of May, my biopsies would be reassessed and I would be contacted at the end of the month and informed about the best next step. This is either whether my case will be dismissed and I will return in a year’s time for another smear or whether they think it’s best I have treatment to prevent any developments.
So now we wait for the end of May…
I would just like to note I am not a certified doctor or nurse and I am simply speaking from my own experience and advice/information that has been given to me. For all details and information please either call your GP, colposcopy clinic or visit the NHS website.