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Anna - Interview 17

Age at interview: 29
Age at diagnosis: 28
Brief Outline: Anna was diagnosed with CIN3 and micro-invasive cancer in 2008, aged 28. She had a LLETZ and, at her second follow-up appointment, another LLETZ because CIN1 was found.
Background: Anna is a married housewife and mother with one child Ethnic background / nationality' White British

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Anna always attended for cervical screening. Shortly after having her son, she was given a smear test and results showed abnormal changes. She had another test three months later and had the same result again. Another three months on, Anna was referred to the colposcopy clinic as the smear test taken then, again, showed abnormalities.

Anna had a colposcopy and biopsy and results showed that she would need treatment in a following appointment. There, she said she was told that she had CIN 3 as well as some micro-invasive cancer. Anna was treated by LLETZ and results showed it had been removed and that she had clear margins.

Anna had a follow-up appointment three months later and a second follow-up six months after that. At her second follow-up appointment, some abnormal changes were detected and Anna was treated there and then by LLETZ. Results showed that it was CIN1 and had all been removed. Anna said she felt shocked and upset about having a LLETZ again. Throughout this time, she had felt anxious and emotionally drained but had also bottled up her feelings because she hadn’t wanted to worry her family and husband. Though they were supportive, she also found the Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust website helpful because she could read about the experiences of other women who had been through something similar (www.jotrust.co.uk). Anna wished she had known about the site when she had been referred to the colposcopy clinic.

Anna said that, because she’d had a miscarriage in the past and wanted to have more children in the future, her main concern was fertility and pregnancy. She was advised to wait until she’d had a couple of clear results before trying for another baby.

Anna encouraged women to attend for cervical screening and, those with CIN or cervical cancer, to look at Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust website. She said that, because of the support she had received from it herself, she had started selling awareness bracelets with the proceeds going to Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust. She had also got involved with other awareness raising activities because she felt so strongly about the importance of cervical screening.

 

Anna had a few repeat smears before being referred to a colposcopy clinic. She was given a lot of...

Anna had a few repeat smears before being referred to a colposcopy clinic. She was given a lot of...

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I’d just had my son. He was born in the April and I had my first smear after that in the October. Went along, as you do. Not worried about it. And my results came back mild abnormal, borderline changes. Didn’t really think much of that. I just thought mainly it was because my body was still trying to get back to normal. And it obviously said that I needed to go back for a repeat smear. Went for this, still not that concerned really because it’s quite common for women to have borderline changes. And again that result came back with the same result.

Yet again I had to go for another smear three months after that. And this time I was referred to the hospital to go and have a colposcopy. With the results letter that I had, the information I received just really explained the type of examination that I would have and what they would be looking for, and obviously it does highlight in there that mild abnormal changes aren’t, in most cases, cervical cancer. So I was still quite relaxed about that because I did feel I was being given quite enough information.

 

Anna was nervous beforehand but the procedure was similar to a smear. Apart from a bit of...

Anna was nervous beforehand but the procedure was similar to a smear. Apart from a bit of...

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Waiting to go in, very nervous because I wanted to know exactly what was going on. He’d explained everything to me, although I wasn’t quite taking it in at the time because my mind was just elsewhere.

When I went into the actual room where they were doing the treatment, I had to sit on a chair with stirrups up for my legs to go in, and slide my bum down a bit, so I was at a better angle. Very similar to a smear, maybe a bit more comfortable because you’re in a chair than laid on a couch. Which isn’t very pleasant.

And then he came in, obviously you need to be from the waist, stripped from the waist down, so ideally wear a skirt. And then it was, to start off with, it was pretty much like a smear. They insert the speculum, which is never very comfortable, and he explained that he obviously needed to numb the area, and put in a local anaesthetic. My cervix tilts a bit so that was a bit awkward, and it, a little painful. I think that was the most painful part I think for me. But it was bearable.

The nurse obviously then had to put the little plastic thing on your thumb to keep it, finger on to check your pulse. And then they put some plastic, I remember plastic, it felt like plastic stickers on my thighs. I can’t remember what that was for, maybe again to just monitor how I was.

And then you heard a buzzing noise, which I, well I think it was just something that helped them with the treatment when he got the wire rod to insert into me. Didn’t feel anything when it was being done, obviously because the anaesthetic was working.

There was an unpleasant smell in the air, which wasn’t very nice. I could feel myself burning up. I think that was more nerves than anything, feeling a bit light headed but the nurse was there to keep me talking, asking me questions about what I was doing at the weekend, just to keep my mind off it.

Didn’t last very long really, and they have removed everything there. My legs were obviously trembling, and with them being up in stirrups. That obviously make things easier and that he did have to stop at one point because I was getting a bit nervous. But yeah, I think it probably only took about five, ten minutes.

 

Anna waited more than six weeks before having sex again because she was so anxious. She felt less...

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Anna waited more than six weeks before having sex again because she was so anxious. She felt less...

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Some women talked about feeling a bit worried about having sex again after a while. Was that a concern for you?

Yes. Absolutely petrified me. I know it said on my letter to wait four to six weeks, I had to wait longer. I can honestly say I felt more unattractive afterwards. I think it’s the thought of something growing inside of you that shouldn’t be there.

I think I’ve, in a way I felt like a failure. My body wasn’t functioning right, why does this have to happen to me and a lot about self esteem as well.

 

Anna advises women to attend all appointments, to take someone with you to appointments, and to...

Anna advises women to attend all appointments, to take someone with you to appointments, and to...

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I think one of the most important things is to make sure you attend your appointment. There were so many people who didn’t attend theirs when I went for mine. And if you leave it, it could turn into something more sinister.

Make sure you go with your partner, your mum, or a very close friend. You will need somebody there for support. Even if it’s just to give you a cuddle at the end of it and hold your hand before you go in.

And really to talk about how you feel. Look up Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust on the internet. The girls on there are wonderful. And will be able to answer any questions. There’s also a confidential medical line on there. If you’ve got any questions, they can answer those in the meantime. Write down any anxieties, questions you have, speak to your consultant about it. If you can’t wait to, until you see your consultant, go and speak to your GP.

 

Anna was worried about her chances of having another miscarriage, especially as she’d had LLETZ...

Anna was worried about her chances of having another miscarriage, especially as she’d had LLETZ...

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He [consultant] said obviously it could mean that I was more likely to have a miscarriage, but he couldn’t say either way really. I was more pleased obviously to have it removed, that was my main concern really. That had to be out. I think because I’d had a previous miscarriage it frightened me a bit more because it’s a scary thing to go through at any time and I just thought ‘could I go through that again’?

I think they were the main important questions and, in the end, I did have to go and see my doctors and speak to them about it, because it was, to my GP because it was worrying me.

And did you feel reassured afterwards?

I did. She said the chances are very slim, and as it was such a small amount that was removed. But obviously she understood my concerns.

 

Anna’s main concern at first was having more children. She felt reassured talking to her GP and,...

Anna’s main concern at first was having more children. She felt reassured talking to her GP and,...

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He [consultant] said obviously it could mean that I was more likely to have a miscarriage, but he couldn’t say either way really. I was more pleased obviously to have it removed, that was my main concern really. That had to be out. I think because I’d had a previous miscarriage it frightened me a bit more because it’s a scary thing to go through at any time and I just thought ‘could I go through that again’?

I think they were the main important questions and, in the end, I did have to go and see my doctors and speak to them about it, because it was, to my GP because it was worrying me.

And did you feel reassured afterwards?

I did. She said the chances are very slim, and as it was such a small amount that was removed. But obviously she understood my concerns, but then I think when I came away I had to start analysing things for myself. And I think the most important thing was that this had been removed. That was what was more important, my health first. Yes I would love more children, but paramount priority is myself, my husband and my son.

 

Anna is now doing her best to raise awareness of the importance of cervical screening. This has...

Anna is now doing her best to raise awareness of the importance of cervical screening. This has...

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I’ve started now making awareness bracelets that I sell with 25% of the funds going towards Jo’s Trust, because they gave me so much support. And also my sister came up with the idea that we should have something, some information put on sanitary products about women to go for their screening test, you know. We don’t like admitting that we have to go, it’s not very pleasant, but if there was something to just discreetly remind us, it might spur somebody who wasn’t going to go, to go for one.

The response I’ve had from manufacturer’s has been overwhelming. They’ve taken it to review boards to try and push it, and Sainsbury’s actually rang me saying they’re really trying to push it through, which is good. So yeah, the more we raise awareness the better, but this is helping me deal with it as well, because I’m doing something, I feel I’m being active. By being active I’m being positive, and that has a good effect on me, and that will hopefully help others in the future.

 

Anna was shocked when, at a follow-up appointment, more abnormal cells were found. She was...

Anna was shocked when, at a follow-up appointment, more abnormal cells were found. She was...

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Life seemed to pick back up and get back to normal again. I actually managed to forget about it. Christmas came, and then I had my letter through to say I had to go for my six month smear, which was last month. I went for that on my own, thinking it was just a normal smear. My last one was normal, nothing to worry about.

But after the smear, they’d also done a colposcopy at the same time, and he [consultant] had detected that there was some abnormal changes on the cervix. So he said, “Whilst I’m here, we’ll do the procedure again.” Asked if I felt comfortable with that. I think I was more upset with the fact that I’d gone on my own. I didn’t have the support waiting for me afterwards, and I actually cried when I was having the procedure done. And the nurse gave me a cuddle afterwards because I was quite shaken up.

My results came back three weeks afterwards saying that they’d found a small amount of CIN1, but they had actually removed it all within that procedure. And I now need to just go back again in six months, but they will keep me under further review because they did find that I have abnormal cells growing anywhere in my cervix, so they wanted to keep an extra close eye on me.

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