Sunday, March 30, 2008 in cervical cancer

One year later, one test for you

It’s taken me all day to write this post. I could have written it earlier this week, I suppose, but some things you want to do right on the day. It’s also a difficult matter to talk about sometimes, so it takes a bit to get in the right headspace. Somewhere in there the day also ran away with me. I wound up going to lie down for a few minutes and got out of bed three hours later. 😀 Anyway, to my point.

It’s been a year since I had a hysterectomy to remove stage 0 cervical cancer. I’m cured. I am finally better (the need for a nap notwithstanding). You can read all I went through here and here. No pics of my 8 inch scar though, and there’s still a small spot on my belly with no feeling.

So today, to celebrate or mark the anniversary, I had planned to maybe do a series of posts and a whole lot of Twittering to raise awareness. The nap really interfered though, and after I got up I had just enough time to eat, get dressed and walk down to the clubhouse for another meeting.

The important thing you need to remember is that women need to have a pap test every year. Every SINGLE year unless the doctor says you can go longer. Normally, this is after you’ve had three years of perfect scores 😉 in a row. I would like to note though, I had no problems until after I hit thirty, then it all went downhill from there.

The average age for diagnosis for women is around 50, but don’t think it can’t happen to you if you are younger than that. Incidence rates for younger age brackets aren’t much lower. Please get checked out. If you’re a guy, make sure to take care of the women in your life.

And don’t just think of younger women – what about your mom? Women should have pap tests up until age SEVENTY. Which was a lot older than I thought. Would you rather be embarrassed or watch a love one suffer or even die? There are still women in a certain age bracket that have never had a pap test done, and it is the single most important screening for such a thing. This is the kind of cancer that if left untreated, you do not have any symptoms until it has progressed quite a bit. Lucky for me, repeated pap tests caught it in time. I had gone three years without a checkup, so that’s how fast it can progress.

Cervical cancer is considered “rare” because of a low incidence rate, but it is mainly due to pap test screening. Since pap tests have become a routine standard the rates have gone down over fifty percent in North America. This is 92% CUREABLE yet 7,000 US, 400 Canadian, & 1,100 UK women will DIE this year. Worldwide, the rates in developing and third world countries are, as you can imagine, not very good.

Every two minutes, a woman dies from cervical cancer. And it is completely unnecessary.

Even here in Canada, and in New Brunswick where women are almost hounded for yearly paps – doctors refuse birth control pill prescriptions unless you have a pap for instance – even here, women die.

Last week, my grandmother’s best friend died. She had cervical cancer. By the time she had issues to see a doctor about, it was too late – it had spread. She’d never had a pap. She was not much older than my own mother.

Also last week, someone forwarded to me a prayer request for a 32 year old woman not far from here who was diagnosed with stage 4 cervical cancer. Her husband is stationed in Afghanistan. The email stated that the reason they found out was because she had a miscarriage. This kind of makes me angry, because for cervical cancer to progress that far, it’s visible to the naked eye. Did this woman have regular pap tests? If not, I feel it’s horrible negligence on someone’s part. She’s too young to be dying, too young to leave her five year old motherless.

So no, you don’t hear of women dying from cervical cancer all the time and far less women are dying from it than used to. But this is one of the few cancers than can be beaten. Anything less is unconscionable.

One thing my gyno’s receptionist said stuck with me: too many women put off a checkup until it’s too late. We’re too busy taking care of others to take care of ourselves. Well guess what? It’s hard to run your household and tend to other’s needs when you are lying in a hospital bed or on the couch and can’t move, let alone stay awake. Even harder when you’re dead.

If it has been more than a year since your last checkup, do me a favor. Tomorrow morning, instead of checking in my blog or surfing a few sites or even buying a bunch of daffodils to raise money to cure cancer, pick up the phone. Call your doctor and make an appointment. Yeah, it’s a hassle, I know. If you can’t do it for yourself, do it for your family. Do it for me.

If I can save just one woman – just ONE – then it will have been worth it.

For more information:
http://www.cervicalcancer.org/
US statistics – rates are higher for African American women. 🙁
cervical cancer screening
pap tests
Cervical cancer charity – Jo’s trust

And although I think the ribbon campaigns are overdone, the colors for cervical cancer awareness are teal and white. There’s a bunch of products here. Although if you have to pick between buying a product or paying for a test to see the doctor, see the doctor please. 🙂

Comments

  1. Thanks for a reminder of why I need to make that dreaded appointment. 🙂

  2. Wow, what an ordeal, and how amazing that you beat it. I have to say you are an inspiration, not only your ability to talk about your experiences so freely, but the encouragement, advice, and and push to get the word out.

    Congratulations to you and yours on this special day! And, just so you know, after reading here, I am making a point of it tomorrow morning to ask Antonella (special lady friend) when she had her last pap test. So thanks.

  3. I’m so glad you can celebrate this day! And I’m up-to-date, I promise. I’m on the every-other-year plan because of five years in a row of normal paps, but I still go in annually for a physical and breast exam.

  4. Thanks for the reminder, Andrea. I’m good for another 8 months or so, but it’s an easy appointment to postpone.

  5. i’m glad you’re all good now. i can’t believe it has been a year already!

    here in australia we have a national register thing and they send you reminder letters when you need to get them. your results are also stored there so they send you a letter to go and get another test if your results were unclear or something too. (i had that last time because of an ‘inadequate sample’). our doctor’s office also actually rings you up and reminds you too and asks when you want to have your appointment. we have a similar set up for mammograms to i think, though i am not of the age to have them yet.

  6. I never really identified myself as a “survivor” since I was never diagnosed with cancer. However, for some reason, after your post, I kinda do feel like a survivor! If left untreated, my situation could have had a very different ending.

    I think it all started in early 2000ish, my family dr. called me after a pap test to state that I needed to go for a biopsy due to an abnormal pap result. I was now going for colposcopies every 6 months. (once a year didn’t look so bad at this point)

    I was diagnosed with Dysplasia.

    My coposcopy results would come back low grade/inconclusive. After a year and a half of this, my (amazing) Dr. at the time suggested that I have a procedure called a LEEP due to these repetitive inconclusive results.

    On April 9th, 2002 I had my LEEP. I remember my results coming back and Dr. Dempsey saying my Dysplasia was actually high-grade and that we had done the right thing by having the procedure.

    I have now gone back to having a pap test once a year and have been without a call back since my procedure.

    So I will totally echo your sentiments. Get checked! I was lucky in how early it was caught. Don’t let it get any further than it needs to!

  7. Thanks for a wonderful post and an important reminder! I know that as someone who religiously gets her annual pelvic, I’m more the exception than the rule. It should be the other way around, and it should take a tragedy to convince someone! Congrats on being cured!!