Wow. So I was going to post my annual call for pap smears the other day but then didn't. Now I just read this on news.com.au:A CERVICAL cancer specialist has welcomed a drop in screening among young women, saying Australians had finally realised they are "wasting their time" getting pap smears every two years.
New statistics from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) show cervical cancer cases and death rates have dropped, but testing rates among younger women were slipping.
Health officials say the drop, by as much as 15 per cent in the past decade, was a concern and called for women to be vigilant about biennial screening even if they have been immunised with the new cervical cancer vaccine.
But Dr Gerry Wain, former director of the NSW cervical cancer screening program, said the results showed women and doctors were understanding cervical cancer prevention better than the policy makers.
"They know from going back time and time again for smears that it's just not necessary to get them that often," said Dr Wain, a gynaecological oncologist at Westmead Hospital in Sydney. If I had not been vigilant about my own pap screening ... would I be here today?
About 3 years ago now, I was diagnosed with Stage 3a Precancerous cells on my cervix. There are only 3 stages (I think there is a stage 3b) before you know ... it's ain't *pre* cancer no more.
When I became sexually active, I began going for my two-yearly pap smear test. When they find something not right - Atypical squamous cells - they tell you to come back in two years time. When you come back in two years time and the next test is also atypical, they tell you to come back in 6 months time for another test. When that one is also atypical, you go to a specialist for a colposcopy pap smear - that one is interesting cause you get to watch it on a big TV screen. And really, I don't think you truly know yourself till you've seen your cervix under a microscope and then televised. They spread a silver nitrate (I think) on your cervix and you can see the atypical squamous cells for yourself.
It's not abnormal for your cervix to get irritated and to be in the process of repair or to have a virus which it eradicates on its own. If you randomly test any part of your body, you will likely find some atypical cells. Your body is designed to get rid of them. When it doesn't, and they replicate ... well ... that's where the trouble starts.
Now, if you've done the maths like I did at the time ... lets say my original pap smear was not some random cells that got removed ... well thats 3.5 years BEFORE
any action happened. Sure, it removes false positives, of which there are many. But after 3.5 years, I had gone to stage 3a precancerous cells. The treatment required laser surgery - ON MY CERVIX! But actually, I don't remember feeling anything other than discomfort cause yo! stirrups? What's up with that? I shook through the whole thing but I think that was fear more than anything. There was a lot of blood I think too and I kept thinking about backyard abortion houses ... but anyway! Not too bad. Someone drives you home. You watch bad afternoon TV and eat chocolate and then next day ... good as new. You have to abstain from sex to for a while (personally I needed some time after, like, burning implements had been applied to my most personal places).
Since then, I had to go 6 monthly for papsmears for a while and now I go yearly. But my doctor is very careful with me because of my Crohn's Disease - autoimmune diseases, you gotta watch cell replication, over active immune system and stuff with that. But you think I care? Heck. I don't care if I go every year for the rest of my life.
I hate to think what would have happened to me if we didn't have a regular screening program. Do I think it's necessary to go that often? FUCK YOU I DO! And I encourage every other cervix possessing person to go and get checked regularly. It's *YOUR* health - be vigilant about protection of it.
When was YOUR last papsmear?