Today I had my 11-month post-hysterectomy visit (my surgery was December 13, 2013). My checkup regularity was thrown off by an abnormal Pap test this summer. Fortunately, it was followed by a normal Pap test—and also by a normal vaginal biopsy, taken during a colposcopy.
Doing due diligence, my doctor did another Pap test today. He didn’t have a ready explanation as to why I had an abnormal Pap test followed by a normal result. But he said perhaps a woman’s immune system takes care of temporary abnormalities in vaginal cells. In fact, I have heard a number of women say that they had an abnormal Pap test followed by a normal one, so this may be a fairly frequent occurrence.
If I hadn’t had ongoing vaginal discharge since my vaginal radiation (brachytherapy) in February, I wouldn’t have needed the follow-up Pap tests. Today’s preferred follow-up modality is visual exams only. But because I reported the discharge problem, the doctor took the prudent course of closely monitoring me in the months after my surgery because, he said, discharge “should not” be occurring at this point. The radiation oncologist also said that ongoing vaginal discharge (as well as rectal leakage) is not a typical post-radiation symptom. Hmmm.
In an upcoming post, I hope to discuss the problem of atypical symptoms and how the medical community may not quite know what to do with them. My suspicion is that a lack of reporting and data collection may be the problem—what the doctors can’t explain they may dismiss, relying on known protocols rather than on new information to provide what they believe to be the best care.
In the meantime, I am in waiting mode because the lab results will take an inexplicable two to three weeks to come back. If the test is normal (fingers crossed), then I will see my regular gynecologist in February and the gynecologic oncologist in May. If all continues to be well by two years out, meaning that the Pap tests are all normal and examination shows no evidence of “lumps or bumps,” I will alternate six-month visits between the two doctors.
For the time being, then, everything is peachy—even though peach is the symbolic color for uterine cancer, which I appear to be free of. Stay tuned for more discussion soon—and for the Pap test results.
See more on my story here.