Pap smears saved my life: Cervical cancer after Gardasil

Knowing I was a DES Granddaughter saved my life

By Z.L.

Early in 2008 I had a bad cold and went to the local clinic to get a medical certificate for time off work. During the consultation the doctor convinced me to have the HPV vaccine Gardasil while it was still free (i.e. before I turned 26 years of age). So I had the three injections of Gardasil between January and June. When I went for the 3rd Gardasil shot in June, that doctor noticed I was due for a Pap smear and suggested I have it while there. So I had a Pap smear and the 3rd Gardasil injection in June 2008.

The Pap smear result was normal, as had been all my previous Pap smear results. I had my next Pap smear in October 2009 and it also was clear.

So it came as quite a shock when I had a Pap smear in March 2011 and was diagnosed and treated for cervical adenocarcinoma in situ (AIS).

A week after I had the Pap smear the doctor rang me to say the report was showing abnormalities and I was to come in the next Tuesday for an assessment.

Three days after that I was in surgery and had a cold knife cone biopsy. The results came through the following Wednesday that the margins of the cone biopsy were clear.

I am very aware that I was fortunate – having my screening with a specialist Colposcopist and having the surgical procedure within 10 days of the results being received. As a result of this, the cancer was detected early, at the in situ (non invasive) stage.

I have to have a follow‐up screening every 6 months to make sure the cancer doesn’t return, and so far so good. I’m reassured that I’m having reliable and expert follow‐up.

However, the main message I want to get out to other DES granddaughters – and all young women – is the need for ANNUAL Pap smears.

The doctor who diagnosed and treated me for cervical AIS says there has been an increase in the number of young women developing this type of cancer, and that annual Pap smears are essential to monitor for it.

Having regular Pap smears saved my life, not Gardasil.