Cervical abnormalities: CIN3 and CGIN

Telling other people

Many of the women we spoke with talked about telling other people that they had CIN3 or CGIN. Some told their partner and close family when they were referred for colposcopy. Others, who knew only that they needed further investigations at this point, told their family once they had the diagnosis. Some said they told very few people at first, often only their mum and sisters. Later they told more people, including friends.

Some women we talked to said that, at first, they were concerned about how to tell their partner because CIN3 is caused by HPV, which is sexually transmitted (see ‘HPV’). They were wary about how they might react and wary because of their own lack of knowledge on the subject, but partners were supportive (see ‘Relationships and sex’).

Some of the women we interviewed didn’t want to worry their mums so they told a close friend or only their partner at first. Several said they told colleagues, too, because they would be taking a few days off work. One woman, who worked in the police force, found it particularly hard to tell her male colleagues.

Over time, the women we spoke to usually told more people. They were often surprised to learn how many women, including some of their own friends, had had abnormal cervical screening test (smear) results, colposcopies or treatment for CIN. Some found this was very reassuring. Several said telling other people helped them to cope and also raised awareness of the condition.

Maria said she told her family and a close friend that she had CGIN and CIN3 but didn’t tell anyone else. She didn’t want to be treated differently because she had abnormal cell changes. She felt that people often found the word ‘cancer’ frightening and she didn’t want to be pitied.

Some women we spoke to said that they told their friends they’d had CIN3 because they hoped it would encourage them to go for cervical screening. If, afterwards, any of them had any questions or concerns, they were able to help or support them.

Some of the women we talked to said they didn’t tell many people they had CIN3 because they had young children to care for and wanted to resume normal life as quickly as they could.

Some women we interviewed were wary of telling other people they’d had CIN3 or CGIN because it affected a private part of their body and was caused by HPV (see ‘HPV’). Many felt there was a stigma attached to having HPV and this made it difficult to talk openly about having CIN3. Some said that other people often related it to promiscuity, but stressed that women diagnosed with CIN3 should not feel embarrassed or ashamed because HPV is such a common virus. Several women found it particularly difficult telling their parents and a few found their reaction upsetting. However, some said their mums had been very understanding. One woman said her mum had looked for information on the internet and had found the Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust website for her.

A couple of women said they didn’t tell many people because they felt embarrassed or that other people would judge them.

Most people were understanding when women told them that they had CIN3. They’d often never heard of it before but tried to be supportive and reassuring. Some female friends and family went for cervical screening as a result, even though they’d missed appointments in the past. A few women we interviewed, though, said friends or family didn’t really understand, especially if they went on to have ongoing problems such as recurrences. Pam felt that, although reality TV star Jade Goody’s experience of cervical cancer had helped raise awareness of it, most people still had no idea what CIN was.

Janet, who had a hysterectomy when she was 37, felt wary of talking to her friends about it because it made them feel uncomfortable.

Last reviewed May 2014.
Last updated May 2014.

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