A while back I wrote about an experience I had at MSKCC where I had a mouse moment with my GYN — feeling like I was being picked for research purposes. I was due to get my pap smear and to my surprise the GYN stated she was not going to perform one because they were no longer doing yearly pap exams. They are now doing these tests every 2-3 years—and I have learned from friends that my hospital is not the only one doing this.
When did they change the protocol for these pap tests? Here’s one article related to this subject.
Apparently a lot of the cases of cervical cancers are linked to the virus HPV, and because I had tested negative for HPV, my GYN at MSKCC did not feel the need to repeat another pap test even though, technically, I was due for one. But HPV is not the only cause for cervical cancer, so why the drastic change? This change may be related to insurance companies wanting to cut down on costs while risking the lives of some women.
I decided to go back to my regular GYN — outside of MKSCC — and explained the situation. She decided to do the pap test for me because she thought it was important to continue to do them every year, even if insurers are trying to cut down on cost, which could be the real reason the protocol may be changing.
The test happened last month. I received my results this week (right after I had a breast biopsy (skin) to rule out any malignancies – another second opinion). My GYN sat me down in an examination room and explained that they had found abnormal cells in my cervix (I hope this is not related to Tamoxifen). The report stated: Atypical Squamous Cells, cannot exclude high-grade squamous intraepithelial lesion/HSIL (ASC-H). I need a colposcopy to rule out cervical cancer.
I have a lot of worries with this possible new development. I am thinking about facing another cancer, the possibility of losing my uterus — which would be the safest thing to do if it turns out there is cancer, but then I won’t be able to carry a child. How am I going to react during this procedure – will it be too painful? As some of you may already know, GYN-related stuff freaks me out so much. I am scared.
The way I think about it, my original breast cancer hurt my intimacy. This intense gyno stuff hurts because it exposes my intimacy in other ways. It really affects me mentally and emotionally. I also can’t help think about my grandma who died from ovarian cancer – not cervical but there’s still a connection. This is all very overwhelming for me. So overwhelming that I haven’t thought about my breast skin biopsy once. I worry about the possibility of dealing with a new cancer.
With all my worry, though, I have also been thinking that it’s time to grow some balls. I am always scared of exams. I shake and sometimes throw up in the examination room. And I think, seriously, if I want to have a child, I need to find a way to be tough and cope with pain and accept the reality of being a woman.
But also, literally speaking, I really wish I had some balls. More than ever, I wish I were a guy and not a girl. We women go through so many headaches health-wise, starting at a much younger age than men, and it is all scary and tiring.
But regarding these pap tests, what’s going on with the medical system these days? If the protocol for these pap tests has changed there will probably be a rise of cervical cancer cases. That would be unfortunate considering these pap tests have been helping us prevent that.
And, what if this turns out to be a secondary cancer for me? What would have happened to me if I had waited another year or two for the pap test because insurance companies decided to cut down on cost? Doctors want to get paid – they deserve to get paid. But it makes me sad that at the end of the day money is a lot more important than saving the lives of some women. It is so unfortunate that we have to adjust according to what these insurance companies find beneficial for themselves.
Have you had an abnormal pap test? Did you have a colposcopy? Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to keep your responses private. I would like to hear from you.