11377235_10156301008640377_2973579202934990238_n“Hello, Winnie?  Yes, this is Dr. Luo.  Your pap smear test results have come back, and we found some abnormal cell growth that needs to be evaluated immediately”

Two weeks ago I received this late night call from my maternity doctor.  As part of my post delivery checkup we did a full health evaluation, and the results showed high grade lesions on my cervix (HSIL)

Do I have cervical cancer?!  Google seemed to think so.  The more I searched, the more panic set in.  I just had a baby, I need to be here to take care of him

Just one year ago, before starting IVF, my health test results were all perfect.  Every prior year as well.  How can I go from perfect health to having severely abnormal cells on my cervix in such a short period of time, and at such a young age?

On the phone, we scheduled a biopsy with a cancer specialist, Doctor Yu.  During the week of waiting for the results, I tried to appreciate every precious moment with my beautiful little boy.  I’ve never been so scared, and still feel the heavy weight of worry

The biopsy results were not positive, showing cell mutation of varying degrees up to CIN3, the most severe level.  There is some debate if this is considered “cancer” or “pre-cancer”, but the debate is not important.  Doctor Yu recommended we schedule immediate surgery

This past Friday I underwent general anesthesia for a cold-knife conization procedure, which hopefully removed all of the abnormal tissue from my cervix.  We will review the results of a biopsy on this tissue later this week.  Best case, I will need to undergo quarterly testing to detect re-occurrence

I’m grateful my Doctor reminded me to schedule a post-delivery health check.  I’m fortunate that we were able to detect the cell mutation early enough that it could be removed with a simple procedure, and hadn’t become invasive.

Many others are not so lucky. Everything about my history says I was low risk, and yet here I am.  It can happen to anybody.

Many of my friends say they can’t remember when they had their last pap smear, although they have now all scheduled a health check.

Please, if you haven’t had a pap smear recently, schedule one as soon as possible.  Cervical cancer is 100% curable if detected early enough.  If the HPV vaccine is available to you, please start the series.

I’m still afraid of what happens next, and it will probably be some time before things feel normal again.  There can be no greater reminder of what is important than when your health is in question.

When was your last pap smear?  This simple procedure might save your life too

– Winnie


Costs under Taiwan’s Single Payer Health System:

Post-delivery health check: ~$12
Consultation with Cervical Cancer specialist: ~$12
Biopsy: $1
(Yes, $1. We had to pay for a small piece of plastic used in the procedure)
Conization surgery: ~$130
Total: $155