My first LLETZ sample showed high grade CGIN; cervical glandular intraepithelial neoplasia.
Glandular cells are inside the cervical canal, which means that they cannot be seen or monitored as easily, and my colposcopist was concerned that they hadn’t been able to get clear margins on my sample and that further treatment would likely be needed. This was when things got a little, not scary exactly, but definitely concerning for me, as I needed to wait for the next multidisciplinary team (MDT) meeting for my case to be reviewed and the next course of action to be decided.
This meant waiting a further three weeks before learning that another LLETZ procedure had been recommended. It’s what I had been led to expect, and I appreciate the fact that various different departments (and brains!) weighed in to decide how to procede, but the waiting time certainly began to get to me as did the uncertainty of it all. When it comes to your health, letting your mind run wild with possibilities really can begin to affect you mentally!
So, long story short, I had a second LLETZ procedure.
This went pretty much the same way as the first, expect that my colposcopist (a different woman, but equally lovely) also took a sample from inside my womb to ensure the abnormal cells were not present there. This was the most uncomfortable sensation, as I could feel a internal prickling that felt entirely disembodied. I’m not sure about you, but when it comes to internal organs I have no real awareness of where each of their surfaces actually are within my body, which made the scraping away of cells from my womb feel somewhat nauseating. It only took a few seconds really, but I felt ‘funny’ for a good few minutes after. No pain, no real discomfort, just weird. That’s the only way I know how to describe it!
The results from my second procedure were equally disappointing, still showing abnormal cells (in my cervix, not in my womb thankfully) and no clear margins, which meant I had to wait for another 3-4 weeks to have my case reviewed again, and the next course of treatment confirmed.
Due to the risk of furture pregnancy complications, a second LLETZ procedure is often only recommended for those who have finished having children, or show cancerous cells, and a third is not typically performed in the space of a year. As a 39 year old woman who hasn’t had children, but who also doesn’t intend to, I was quite adamant that I wanted my health put first, ahead of any hypothetical pregnancy the hospital team might envision for me.
I’d expressed my desire not to have children to my colposcopist on both previous occasions and I think that these notes on my file helped push the case for me having a third procedure to get rid of all the abnormal cells once and for all. Obviously this is a big decision for a lot of people who might be facing second or third LLETZs whilst also wanting to become pregnant in the future, and is something I advise anyone to talk through at length with a health professional before making any decisions.
I knew that I was in a position in my life to be adamant and vocal in my preferences, and happily my opinions were recorded and taken seriously. Last November I had my third LLETZ procedure, with another female colposcopist, and this time she took out more of my cervix for biopsy (which led to me bleeding more than in previous procedures – although I experienced no additional pain), after first assessing that my cervix had regenerated nicely from the two previous procedures.
Last week I finally got the call I wanted: no abnormal cells present in my biopsy and, as a result, clear margins which effectively mark the end of this portion of treatment. Let me tell you, the relief I felt was very much like a giant weight of my shoulders, and I know my boyfriend (who has been my rock throughout all of this) felt exactly the same. I’m still waiting on a confirmed follow-up plan, which will likely be two six-monthly cervical screenings at the hospital, followed by yearly screenings for the next ten years, but to be honest, I’m delighted that they will be continuing to monitor things so closely going forward. It gives me good peace of mind that should any more abnormal cells develop, they will be caught and dealt with swiftly.
So, right now my experience of cervical cancer is very much one of early detection and prevention.
Regular screenings really do save lives and, I hope, I’m proof of that. I know there will still be those of you with worries and concerns over your own cervical screening invites, or perhaps an early diagnosis after attending one. If anyone would like to ask me any further questions or advice, and don’t feel comfortable leaving a comment below, please know my Instagram DMs are always open and I will treat any conversation in the strictest of confidence. This is not a story I thought I’d be sharing this time last year but – after a good 9/10 months of worry – I’m so glad I get to share a positive outcome with you all.
If you would like any further expert advice I point you in the direction of Jo’s Trust
for the most up-to-date and detailed information on cervical cancer, as well as the Your Stories
section which covers all aspects of cervical screening, cell changes and diagnosis. We have the tools to make cervical cancer a thing of the past. HPV vaccination, cervical screening, and treatment for cell changes can all help prevent it, but we need to increase both awareness and uptake.
I hope this post will inspire you!