Cervical Screening Awareness Week fell in June, and I was pleasantly surprised to see Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust raising awareness of the potential side effects of the procedures used to treat cervical cell changes. While these treatments are extremely effective in preventing cell abnormalities from developing into cervical cancer, in the most extreme cases – as I’ve covered previously on Hysterical Women – procedures such as the LLETZ, which burns off abnormal cells, have left women without sexual function and suffering from PTSD. It’s such a tricky subject, and there’s a really delicate balance to strike when it comes to insuring women have all the necessary information to give fully informed consent, without scaring women off screening or treatments (if necessary) in the first place.
One of the really interesting findings from Jo’s Trust’s survey though was that there’s a definite grey area when it comes to women diagnosed with CIN2 cell changes (more severe than CIN1, but less severe than CIN3), who are currently being treated differently depending on where they’re treated. The latest evidence suggests most CIN2 lesions, particularly in women under 30, regress on their own, without treatment – but the lack of standardised guidance on this means that some doctors treat women with CIN2, while others recommend more conservative observational management. Essentially this means some women might be offered treatment – with all the side effects that potentially brings – unnecessarily. I looked into it for The i, including speaking to one woman who regrets agreeing to her treatment.
Also this month I wrote for Patient about signs you might be taking the wrong contraceptive pill, and why switching pills might be better for you than ditching it altogether. And I spoke to patients and doctors about why fibromyalgia – which affects around one in 25 people – is so misunderstood.
Women diagnosed with cervical cell changes are being treated differently across the country – for The i:
No one wants to hear their smear test result has picked up abnormalities – but early detection and appropriate treatment can and does save lives by preventing cervical cancer from developing.
The latest report by the charity Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, ‘Not so simple,’ highlights the confusion and anxiety many women feel after receiving a diagnosis of cervical cell changes, and calls for greater consistency in the information and treatment pathways these women receive.
This is particularly the case when it comes to women diagnosed with CIN2 cell changes – a grey area in which there are discrepancies in the approaches used by doctors, according to Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust.