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Claire - Interview 24

Age at interview: 32
Age at diagnosis: 31
Brief Outline: Claire was diagnosed with CIN3 in 2008, aged 31. Her smear test results showed abnormalities but her colposcopies showed no abnormalities. She is thinking about participating in a clinical trial on photodynamic treatment for cervical conditions.
Background: Claire is single and works as a surgeon Ethnic background / nationality' White British

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Claire always attended for cervical screening. She had had no symptoms so was very surprised when she was diagnosed with CIN3. Her smear test result showed abnormalities but her colposcopy showed no abnormalities. Two further smear tests were taken and both showed she had CIN3 but the colposcopies showed normal results. Claire felt unsure about having LLETZ treatment because more of her cervix could be removed than was necessary and affect future pregnancies. She might also have to be treated more than once and was concerned about being over-treated.

Claire had private health care insurance and asked to be tested for HPV. Test results showed that she had four strains of the virus and this increased her risk of having cervical cancer. Claire was particularly concerned about this because her aunt had died of cervical cancer.

After doing her own research, Claire discovered a clinical trail taking place in Belarus which focussed on using photodynamic therapy for cervical conditions. The trial would investigate whether photodynamic therapy could successfully treat cervical conditions, including cancer, without removing as much of the cervix as current treatments. At the time of interview, Claire was having regular colposcopies and thinking about participating in this trial.

Claire said that one of the most difficult aspects of having CIN3 was telling other people because it is caused by HPV. For her, dealing with other peoples’ reactions was the worst part of the experience because HPV is sexually transmitted and some people associate it with promiscuity. Telling her parents and some of her colleagues was particularly difficult.

Claire would have liked more information from health professionals before going for colposcopy. She encouraged other women to attend for cervical screening and was in favour of the HPV vaccine for younger girls.

 

Claire, a doctor, was being monitored but hadn’t had treatment yet. She wanted time to consider...

Claire, a doctor, was being monitored but hadn’t had treatment yet. She wanted time to consider...

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And he said one of the options was the LLETZ, the LLETZ treatment, but you may have to have it more than once?

Yeah, just because he couldn’t, he said that the cells were probably very high up in the cervix because he couldn’t see anything. And, because I’ve never had children, I have a very small cervix so you can’t see everything. You can just see the outside.

So he was very clear explaining. And he drew some diagrams to show what the LLETZ would take out, and how it would be, if my cells were down near the bottom then it would be fine. They would be removed. But if they were up in the top they might not be removed. And he just felt that he didn’t want to do that at this stage in case it would resolve by itself. Because he didn’t want to over treat basically.

I’m not worried if I do have to have a LLETZ. I’m not worried about the actual procedure because it’s all been explained. And the colposcopy wasn’t bad.

So you’re not worried about the procedure. Your paramount concern is preserving your cervix so that when you do have children there are fewer complications or fewer issues that…?
Yes, and also the whole, it’s more about making sure that the right area is treated. If I was going to have a LLETZ and it was going to definitely treat the right area, then I would be fine. I would have one tomorrow.

In fact I was initially pushing to have treatment, to have a LLETZ done, and initially part of me was so worried I said, “I don’t care, you know, lets, just do the LLETZ and see.” But then we discussed it further. Because that was because I was nervous and because my aunt had died of cervical cancer, your knee jerk reaction is, “Oh my goodness, I want something done about it.” So to sit back and not do anything about it has been, it’s not been an easy choice, but it’s, you know, it’s been an informative choice.

 

Claire found it upsetting when some of her family felt it was her fault she’d got CIN3 because...

Claire found it upsetting when some of her family felt it was her fault she’d got CIN3 because...

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What was more difficult was to tell my parents because, with all the advertising for the vaccine for the HPV vaccine, which I think is amazing. It’s really good now and I would recommend everyone to take it. There’d been much more awareness about how you can get cervical cancer from a virus, which is caught sexually. And so therefore some members of my family said, well it’s a sexually transmitted disease and you’ve brought it on yourself, sort of attitude, which I found very difficult to… to bear with, because I’m not a promiscuous person. And I found that really upsetting actually. And that was difficult and also then to tell people at work because of course I work in the medical profession and I work just with men because of my job.

And actually you worry that you’ll get the reaction from them that this is a sexually transmitted disease. And it’s almost as bad as telling somebody you’ve got HIV, and it’s not the same. You know, I found that attitude, although the awareness is much better, there’s become this much more of a stigma attached to it. So that was quite, that was the worst experience I think about having this whole thing, was people’s reaction to it.

I actually even told my mother, you can look it up. And advised them to look up Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, because the family member that I was telling… I come from, you know, quite a religious family and they have very fixed viewpoints.

I didn’t expect that reaction from them, though. It wasn’t supportive and it was very upsetting. And when you’re telling somebody news like, you need people to be supportive. And you need people to be caring because, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how you’ve got it, and it’s very common.

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