Many of the females in my family have faced many forms of cancer and has me on alert of any changes in my body. I’ve always had a very heavy and abnormal reproductive system. Finding an OBGYN that I felt comfortable and well cared by is key in my proactive approach to my health.
Through the years my bleeding became more heavy and longer time frames. My Doctors expected my uterus to be “normal” after having my children but it didn’t prove to be the case. I continued with my PAP’s (Papanicolaou test) every year. When my blood loss was not only making me anemic but landing in the hospital in need of blood transfusions regularly the concern was escalated.
I want to make EVERYONE aware that PAP smears DO NOT screen for uterine cancers.
During the sharing of my journey, 95% of the women I’ve spoken to didn’t know this fact. Most assumed that the PAP tests detected any issues within their uterus. This is a HUGE misconception!
Heavy blood loss is one of the symptoms for uterine cancer. My OBGYN prescribed medications to control the bleeding including various forms of birth control during the iterim.
He sent me to the hospital for a transvaginal ultrasound to view any abnormalities in my cervix, uterus and ovaries. The machine used is similar to the ultrasound machine used when pregnant. This one has a probe/wand that is inserted in to the uterus. It is more uncomfortable than painful as the technician will have you move your pelvis in to different positions while pressing your abdomen to create the images the Doctor will need to review. It was a 20 minute session of contorting and lifting for me.
The Doctor received the images and reviewed them after a week. My ovaries were normal but my uterus was misshaped with many fibroids. Fibroids are tumors that develop on the lining of the uterus and cause heavy bleeding. In my case there were so many that it also misshaped my uterus.
The next step is a test to check for cancer in the uterus wall. The Doctor scheduled me for a “endometrial” biopsy at his office. This is performed similar to a PAP smear but the tissue is scraped/cut from the furthest walls of the uterus referred to as the “cavity.” In my case it was very painful and the fibroids obscured the entry of the device and the tissue taken was not deep enough in the area to test correctly.
Now a more intrusive procedure was needed to perform the biopsy needed for cancer testing. A “Dilation (or Dilatation) and Curettage” was scheduled at the hospital. This procedure is also known as a “D&C” for short. The cervix is dilated and a “specimen” collected for testing and in my case the Doctor scraped the lining and removed as much of the fibroids as possible. I was given General Anesthetic for this procedure and so glad for it! The procedure is generally performed as an outpatient unless there are complications.
From the first PAP smear in January I was now already in May when the D&C was performed. This is one thing to remember in all of this: It takes time to have these steps performed. Insurance approvals, test results and hospital schedules are to be taken in to consideration. Time was the biggest stress point for me. 5 months in and still I didn’t know if I was dealing with cancer.
My results were reviewed with me at the end of May and they were BENIGN (No Cancer Cells) so far! I was filled with relief and my Doctor recommended that I have a hysterectomy. My bleeding should have slowed down from the “scraping” done with the “D&C” but it didn’t. He believed my fibroids were redeveloping and I will continue with ill health from the blood loss. At this point I was dealing with this heavy bleeding for over 4 years! I’m 40 years old and had two children. It was time to put an end to this once and for all.
My hysterectomy – removal of my uterus – finally took place on July 30th. On a normal woman this would be performed via the vagina cavity BUT nothing has been normal thus far and my cervix was no exception – it was too high for a vaginal hysterectomy. An abdominal hysterectomy was performed over the scar tissue of my two c-section deliveries of my children. My recovery was EXACTLY the same as my c-sections in comparison to the pain regaining movement and incision healing.
My tests of the removed uterus were also benign and my ovaries were healthy and left in my body. This will allow for my hormones to continue to do their job and go through my normal menopause stages when the time comes.
Ladies, we are the keepers of our health and bodies. Being proactive in having our PAP smears performed regularly is essential. In addition we need to inform our Doctors when our bodies have changes: pain, blood flow, lumps and discomfort. And remember that a PAP smears DOES NOT test for cancers in the uterus. Keep an open dialogue with your Doctors and inform them immediately if cancer runs in your family – as it does in mine.
Molina Health Care has been a long standing health organization in our community. I can remember going to their facility in East Los Angeles since I was a little girl and now I have taken both my parents for care there. The Molina Health Care family has expanded their reach to not only California but is also found now in: Florida, New Mexico, Virginia, Washington and Utah.
They have a Women’s Wellness program dedicated just for us… their community. Find a location near you: www.MolinaHealthcare.com
The opinions in this article are my own. I do not work for, or with, any brand mentioned in this article, nor do I have any official relationship with them. I have a relationship with GigaSavvy, for whom I create original editorial content.