Last Friday I went to the gynecologist and had a colposcopy. I had the procedure because about a month ago I my pap smear came back with abnormal results. For those of you who have never gone through this experience I just wanted to share mine with you.
Abnormal pap results are not common, but they are not exactly uncommon either. According to the American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology, about 1 in every 20 pap results can be considered abnormal. Once I heard about my results and started talking to friends and relatives, I found out that many of them had had the same experience. It was comforting because, truth be told, I was very scared.
I felt so stupid, but when the doctor called me to inform me of my abnormal results I didn’t even know what that meant. I knew that the results were SUPPOSED to be normal but I didn’t know what abnormal pap smears could mean. Then she said cancer. I started to cry at my desk at work. How had I been so uninformed about my own body? I just went every year to get refills on birth control!
I composed myself and listened to the doctor and she said that cancer was very very unlikely. She told me that I would need to schedule an appointment for a colposcopy in the near future so they could biopsy some cervical cells to take a closer look. She said the most likely outcome was that I would need pap tests more often than once a year.
A colposcopy basically is a procedure that allows your doctor to take a closer look at your cervix in order to see things that may not be seen during a normal exam. If they see any abnormalities they biopsy them. The whole thing usually takes anywhere from 5-15 minutes.
It doesn’t sound too bad, but I was very nervous. I was worried it would hurt and worried about the possible results. The doctor told me to take some Ibuprofen before my appointment to lessen any pain I might feel. Even though I’m a grown woman I asked my mother to come with me because, like I said, I was scared and I knew she’d ask questions that I’d forget to ask out of nervousness.
When we got there the doctor was very nice and informative about everything. She went over the procedure before we started and tried to calm me as much as possible. I had been told by some that had gone through this that it didn’t really hurt at all, but for me it hurt. The speculum hurt more than during my regular pap, maybe it was because the opening had to be a little bigger. Next, the doctor put vinegar in my cervix. It sounds strange I know, but it’s what they use to highlight the abnormalities so they know what to biopsy. The vinegar stung a little bit, but that really wasn’t so bad. Next was the actual biopsies. She took two. It just felt like little pinches but given the location in my body of the pinching, you can imagine it was painful. It also made my stomach cramp a bit, which she said was expected. Next came a little brush-type instrument. It was used to collect cells from farther in the cervix that couldn’t easily be reached. It apparently wasn’t supposed to hurt but it felt like scratching to be honest. Again, more stomach cramping. Finally, the pain was over and the doctor applied this weird looking brown paste to the biopsied areas of my cervix to stop any bleeding, took the speculum out and I was done. It all lasted about 10 minutes I want to say.
For the rest of the day I was in a lot of pain. I took another round of Ibuprofen which helped a little bit but my vaginal area was just sore. I also bled a little. It was just spotting but I had to wear a pad because after the procedure you’re not supposed to use tampons for 1-2 weeks. The paste that the doctor applied to heal the biopsies also discharged in what looked to be like coffee grounds. It was pretty weird to be honest.
By the next day I was back to normal. No pain and no spotting. Now the only thing I have to worry about are the results. They take about a week to get to me so until then I’m trying not to think the worst.
I just wanted to share this experience with you all. I’m 26 and I had no idea about any of this and that embarrassed me. Women should know about this. I had comprehensive sex ed but this isn’t covered there. No one tells you about this stuff until there’s a problem. Well now you’ve read about my experience so hopefully if any of you have to go through it you won’t be scared like me, or at least not as scared.
For more information you can go to http://www.asccp.org/