Cervical Cancer. It’s one of those big scary C’s that we don’t talk enough about. The words “Mortality rate” and “most common cancer” are bandied about, but as a society, we seem to stick our fingers in our ears and hum. Much has been done on this in recent years, but we’ve a long way to go.
Last week, I was wandering around Cork City when I came across a sight which turned my stomach. An anti-abortion group, Youth Defence, were protesting outside Brown Thomas on Patrick Street. As well as their usual selection of banners with images of dead foetuses, they also had lots of volunteers handing out leaflets with the same. So far, so unfortunately familiar. There were lots of families around, children are off school and the weather was nice. For the most part, parents were trying to rush their children through the area, ignoring the stands and trying to distract their kids. This was a job made much harder by the volunteers, who were handing the leaflets to the children.
In Ireland, women aged between 25 and 60 are invited to obtain a cervical smear once every three years. This screening process, run by Cervical Check from the HSE, was put in place to combat the number of women diagnosed with cervical cancer. I’ve written recently about the importance of getting a regular smear test to ensure you’re healthy. However, what happens if it doesn’t come back with a clean bill of health? What if your cervical smear comes back showing abnormalities? What does a referral for a colposcopy mean? It can be easy to panic and assume “Oh god, it’s cancer, it’s definitely cancer”, but that’s not the case. Here’s a look at what those abnormal results can indicate, and how they’re treated afterwards.