Maintaining 43 in the Single Lane

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

A Diagnosis By Any Other Name

"Would you like a chaperone?"

Odd question, seeing I'm far from being of "chaperone" age. And the fact that I was in the office of my OBGYN this past Monday, preparing to have my annual Pap smear. Seems times have changed in the safeguarding of young women.

My stats were good: blood pressure fine, my weight - get this - a steady, seven-year-consecutive 113 lbs (amidst red velvet cupcakes, mandatory bread intake and four years in rib-drenched Memphis)...

The exam was the typical, refrigerated pelvic exam, complete with a complimentary "ambush" anal exam (aren't they suppose to warn you of the invasion, in lieu of dinner and a dance?!!).

This annual exam was a far more traumatic experience back in 1993. When I was called into my doctor's office to get results of my Pap smear back then, my mother and I heard a diagnosis that was foreign to us; dysplasia. When we asked the doctor what it meant, he explained it as being the presence of abnormal cells in the cervix, which comes in three stages: mild, moderate, and severe. I was diagnosed with the severe stage. When asked what "severe" meant, his response put it all into focus-

Precancerous.

Here's my life, in rapid succession of this announcement:

~ One request for a hysterectomy- DENIED

~ A second opinion (with second denial of a hysterectomy)

~ One painful cone biopsy, a remedial diagnosis ONE YEAR LATER, followed by the replacement and complaint letter of my OBGYN

~ One laser treatment, succeeded by normal Pap smears from that point on...

Which is why I am so upset by the angst voiced by the parents of daughters age 9 and up who have the opportunity of GARDASIL, the vaccine created to help guard against HPV, the leading cause of cervical cancer. Even fourteen years ago, my OBGYN referred to cervical cancer as an STD, but I guess society wasn't ready to digest that information. But it is what it is; sexually-active females can easily become affected by the 20 million people in the United States already infected with HPV (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate, as of 2005). And sexual intercourse is not a prerequisite; anyone who has any kind of sexual activity involving genital contact with an infected person can get HPV.

So in this day and age, parents have far more than their daughter's first movie date or dance to worry about; but at least a chaperoned Pap smear has a better chance of a positive diagnosis than mine back in 1993.

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