Cervical Cancer Prevention Week 2022: woman found to have HPV urges others to attend cervical screening

A woman who was found to have HPV and cell changes after a cervical screening has urged others to get tested after screening potentially prevented “a cancer diagnosis a lot later in my life”.

Rachel, 34 from Brighton, went for a cervical screening in November 2020, after experiencing abnormal bleeding on and off for a while.

After ringing her GP to check when her smear test was due, it was found that the date of her last appointment was recorded incorrectly.

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This meant her next test was about two years late, meaning she was rushed through for an appointment.

Rachel said she was “really shocked” that her results showed she had HPV and cell changes.

She added that after reading “horror stories” on the internet, she soon found cervical cancer charity Jo’s Trust, which provided her with reassurance.

Although Rachel said the wait for her colposcopy appointment at Worthing Hospital was “really hard”, due to not knowing “how bad the situation was”, the nurses “were lovely and held my hand” at the appointment, which took place in February 2021.

Rachel’s results showed that she had CIN3, which is not cervical cancer but means the full thickness of the cervical surface layer is affected by abnormal cells, so they wanted to carry out a LLETZ treatment the next month.

Although Rachel said this made her panic, as she said “if you have kids you can really go to a bad place in your head with worry about what might happen to you”, the nurses at St Richards hospital in Chichester were again “brilliant and explained everything while holding my hand”.

“I did burst into tears afterwards - I felt like I’d been blocking it all out, but then it all came flooding out at the end.”

‘For the reassurance it provides it’s worth it’

Rachel then had another cervical screening six months later, but her results still showed HPV and cell changes and she was required to undergo another colposcopy in November 2021.

She said the biopsy, which was more painful this time due to scar tissue, showed she has CIN1, which means one-third of the thickness of the cervical surface layer is affected by abnormal cells, but this often returns to normal without any treatment at all.

She will have another cervical screening in a year’s time.

Rachel said she’s “over the moon” no treatment is needed at the moment and that she has 12 months “to get healthy and hopefully heal”.

Rachel also stressed the importance of cervical screening, she said: “If I left my abnormal cells it could have potentially meant a cancer diagnosis a lot later in my life, but by keeping up with smears and treatment on offer we can prevent cervical cancer”.

She said that although cervical screening is pain free, it can be slightly uncomfortable, but “for the reassurance it provides it’s worth it”.

“I regularly remind my friends to go for a ten minute appointment out of your day. I now book in reminders like I do for the hairdressers,” she added.

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