Patient at Gateshead Health praises the colposcopy unit and encourages those with a cervix to get their smear test

Cervical screening (a smear test) is a test to check the health of the cervix and help prevent cervical cancer. It’s offered to women and people with a cervix aged 25 to 64. This is one of the best ways to protect yourself from cervical cancer.

Rachel, a patient at Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust was diagnosed with a pre-cancerous change on her cervix in late 2021 following her routine cervical screening at her GP practice.

When Rachel first attended the Colposcopy unit at Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust, she explained she was a heavy smoker and had been trying to have a child for around 10 years with no success. Rachel openly chatted about how she was also struggling with her mental health. Brief health intervention advice and support were offered to Rachel at every step to help to improve her health and she embraced a positive lifestyle change.

At every 6-month review, Rachel had a positive self-achievement. Firstly, she stopped smoking and her mental health had vastly improved. Then six months later, she ran into the consulting room with a huge smile on her face that she was pregnant. Later, Rachel came to the unit with her daughter Abigail to meet the team who then congratulated her further as she was married by her third review.

Rachel with her daughter Abigail

Sharon Denise Clark, Joint Colposcopy Service Lead and Lead Colposcopy Nurse caught up with Rachel to talk about her experience at the Colposcopy unit:

What lead to your appointment?

I started by getting my smear test done at the doctors and they found abnormal cells so I had to come into the colposcopy department to check to see what was going on. Coming into the unit was so nerve-wracking but it was so relaxing, like meeting old friends when I came in. Everything was so relaxed and lovely

What was your experience visiting our department for appointments and follow-ups?

I loved it; it was so welcoming you don’t even know you are getting it done. Everyone was chatting and anything became a conversation. Each time I came in, I had another story to tell and chat with the nurses about. The first time I came in, I had a bad mental breakdown, the second one I stopped smoking, and at the next appointment I fell pregnant with my daughter, Abigail and then I was married!

How did the team at Colposcopy make you feel?

The team did go above and beyond, 100% to make me feel comfortable. I was so panicky, I brought my mam for support and as soon as I left, I felt like I didn’t need her to come again. Everyone was just so lovely and I enjoyed it because I was made to feel so at ease.

What is your message to women who are scared to come to screening appointments?

I would say get a support circle, which is your first thing to do. Please get your smear, its life-changing and saves your life. I don’t know what state I would be in now if I didn’t get mine. It is nerve-wracking but bring a book or your phone to try to keep your mind off it and you will be fine. Everyone in the department makes you feel so chilled out about it.

Any tips for women?

While you are getting your smear, talk to the nurse about anything, your day, or your life and it will be over before you know it.

How are you feeling now?

I am feeling amazing; I am now low-grade HPV negative. I cried when I found out the result, it was such a relief but I am sad at the same time because my 6 month check-ups are not going to happen!

Interview with colposcopy nurse and patient
Sharon Denise Clark, Joint Colposcopy Service Lead, Rachel and her daughter Abigail

Sharon Denise Clark, Joint Colposcopy Service Lead and Lead Colposcopy Nurse comments on the importance of screening:

Rachel wanted to tell her story to encourage those with a cervix to attend for cervical screening and equally how important it is to see the Colposcopy team if needed. Please take up the opportunity to get your smear test as it could be life-saving

Sharon Denise Clark, Joint Colposcopy Service Lead and Lead Colposcopy Nurse