Thursday, July 10, 2008
ladies only today - really, it's about smear tests
When I got my first period, my mother wanted to take me out and buy me a piece of symbolic jewellery to mark the occasion, something like a silver disc. We never found the right thing, but looking at this, this might have been it! The only thing is, maybe it would have had to be a bit smaller, this looks massive.
Leading into the territory of the title...
I've been meaning to get a smear test for about ten years, and never got round to it, despite the horror this engenders in people you tell.
I actually went to a gp a year or so ago, but it was the wrong time in my cycle, and I found her to be so unpleasant that I didn't want to go back to her.
A major reason I didn't go was I didn't want to deal with a lot of fuss over abnormal cells that were just that but not necessarily any more, have fears of cancer bandied about, go through god knows what and find it to have all been unnecessary. I know a woman who had all that happen, having been tested with a high number of cancerous cervical cells. She managed it with diet and homoeopathy (she's a homoeopath) and next time she was tested she was clear. Obviously I'm not advocating that everyone do that, but it worked in her case.
Still, I've had a bump on my cervix for some time now, that I've assumed was a cyst but never got checked. Then I got pregnant, so I've left it go, and for the first six months or so of breastfeeding they say your test comes back like that of a menopausal woman's, so there's no point going anyway.
So I've been meaning to make an appointment these last few weeks, and I finally got round to it today. I'm so glad to have met the doctor I went to in the Bray Women's Health Centre, I think it was Cathleen Corr. I like her so much I asked if she was a family doctor as well, and sadly she's not :(
She's friendly, intelligent, has great hair, and lots of opinionated info. Someone suggested to me the other day that gps don't have to keep their training up, so if you go to someone who hasn't the interest, all their info might well be decades out of date! I've certainly come across a couple stories corroborating that opinion. She said the same, and gave me some advice when I told her I'd been told to go for mammograms every two years - talk to another doctor, they're constantly revising their opinions on that. Rather than castigating me in horror for not having had a smear, she said that the standard line has changed - they now don't recommend anyone have one til their mid twenties, and after a clear test result, every three years. She said a tiny percentage of women get the rapidly advancing form of cervical cancer, and if you're tested too young it's not going to show up for another twenty years or so anyway.
She also agreed wholeheartedly with the fears I've outlined above about hysterical reactions to small amounts of abnormal cells. And she told me I was better off going to the homoeopath than the gp generally, and we discussed the merits of letting kids get dirty and build their immunity with exposure to bugs. I love the woman! The only downside was that the procedure costs seventy five fucking euro :(
And so to the speculum - she said it would be very cold, and it wasn't particularly, she said it might be uncomfortable and it wasn't, particularly. She was very reassuring, confirmed that the bump I thought was a cyst was just wear and tear from the labour, and that raw areas or scarring like that can cause increased mucous output (just in case anyone reading has a similar issue and is worried about discharge!). Then she told me to sit up and put my pants on - I had to ask her if she'd done the actual smear, I hadn't felt anything! When you've had a baby, you lose inhibitions and fears about people looking up you, I find, but I was still vaguely apprehensive after Midge had posted about finding her smears painful. I thought it was perhaps an issue of how good the doctor is, so I congratulated myself on finding a good one. I even rang Midge to tell her.
Then as I was driving home, I had a depressing thought. What if I'm just dead inside??