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Cervical Screening

Laser therapy

Laser therapy (sometimes called laser ablation) is a treatment used to destroy abnormal cervical cells so that normal cells can grow back in their place. It is performed in a hospital outpatient clinic, using a local anaesthetic. Most women need only one session of treatment. A biopsy (a sample of the skin) is required before laser therapy is used. Under local anaesthetic, a laser beam is pointed onto the abnormal areas of the cervix and the cells are destroyed. During the treatment there may be a slight burning smell from the laser.

We asked women about their experiences of Laser therapy.  Many said the treatment was not painful, just uncomfortable, like bad period pains and cramping and the treatment did not last very long.

 

She found entering the treatment room daunting because of the equipment.

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Age at interview: 37
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 28
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I actually went on a Saturday morning and there was no hold-ups on the treatment day at all, you was given an appointment time and we weren't kept about at all. There was obviously other people sort of waiting for their turn. I was taken into the normal side room and obviously spoken to briefly by the nurse. And then you was taken through into the major room where the treatment was going to be. 

And I mean that part of it was a little bit daunting because there was so many machines and, and obviously a screen, a TV screen in there and a few nurses and obviously the consultant who was gonna do the treatment. I think the worst thing for me when I was having that done was the fact of this TV screen because obviously its sort of shown up on there from the camera and that was the worst part for me, thinking crikey that's my insides, I think that was the worst part really. 

And all the way through from me going into that room I had a nurse at my side who was lovely, knew exactly what to say to you to make you feel better and the consultant that actually did the treatment explained right from the start what she was gonna do, how it might feel and a little bit of why she as doing it. So to be honest from all these sort of treatments, sort of the check-ups leading up to it the actual treatment, how I was treated having it, was very good.

 

It helped to have a doctor who made her feel at ease and explained in detail what the treatment...

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Age at interview: 41
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 27
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This time when I went in I took somebody with me because I realised that I needed some sort of moral support. And it was a different doctor this time and he sat me down and explained everything to me, even did a diagram. He sort of said "This is where the abnormal cells are, all round your cervix, this is what we're going to do, it's a laser beam that actually burns it off and it sounds worse than it is. It's not like you're actually going to feel anything very much." And he sat down and he said "Have you got any questions that you want to ask?" And I, you know I did ask. I can't remember now what I asked but I remember asking a few question and feeling that I could ask him anything, he was really, really nice. And I then went over to the, to the table, sorry the bed that I was going to lie on and it was, it was quite frightening because your legs go into stirrups and they bring this machine over. And I was surprised at how many people were there. There was a nurse on the side of me and then there was the doctor and his assistant and I think there was probably a couple of students as well watching.

 

She felt discomfort but little pain during the laser treatment.

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Age at interview: 37
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 28
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It wasn't actually, when the treatment was going on the consultant did explain how it would tend to feel to you, it did feel like that but it wasn't really excruciating pain, it was discomfort but it wasn't really bad pain, that's how I could describe it. And even after the treatment and what have you, it would be like a really bad period pain, what you'd have and I think that's the only best way of describing it really. I think you tend to think it's going to be really horrible and painful but it's more discomfort than pain. 

After treatment, several women we interviewed said they suffered some initial discomfort, and some said they felt emotional and exhausted. It was usual for  women to have some bleeding after their treatment. Some said this was like a normal period for a few days. Others said they bled for longer and bleeding was heavier than normal.

 

She felt very emotional after laser treatment.

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Age at interview: 41
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 27
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Again I bled quite a bit afterwards and had really low down period pain and just felt very, very, very emotional afterwards. I'm not sure whether that was the procedure or the fact that it's because I thought it was something, I still had it in my mind that this is more serious than it is. And then I kept thinking of if I hadn't had this done and if I hadn't gone for that smear test I'd be having cancer, I really thought, I still had that cancer thing in my mind. But I had somebody with me that time. I went home and then I went for a series of smear tests which then showed later on that I was clear. And I just, I was a bit shook-up by the whole experience.

Treatment is nearly always 100 per cent successful. Most women experienced no long term side effects from their treatment. One woman believed her laser treatment later led to the inability for her cervix to hold her baby to full term pregnancies. Studies have shown that the most common treatment, loop diathermy LLETZ does not affect fertility, pregnancy or delivery. Women who have deeper treatments such as Cone Biopsy have a slight increase risk of developing stenosis (a tightening of the cervical canal) or incompetence (inability for the cervix to hold a pregnancy to full term). Understanding of the effects of laser therapy, cold coagulation and cryotherapy on fertility, pregnancy and delivery is not well documented.

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Last reviewed October 2015.

Last updated October 2015.

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