Chloe’s experience highlights the importance of HPV vaccine, regular smears

Chloe Heath
Chloe’s message for young women is simple. (Photo courtesy of Nicole Mennell Photography.)
Chloe Heath has a simple message for other young women – have the free HPV vaccine and have regular cervical smears. Chloe, a store manager, had just turned 22 when she says a cervical smear showed the highest grade of abnormal, pre-cancerous cell changes of her cervix.

‘I really had no idea what CIN3 meant and was terrified. I’m young and healthy and had it in my head that cervical cancer doesn’t affect women my age. It was such a shock.’

Chloe lives in Gore and was referred to a specialist at Southland Hospital in Invercargill who performed a colposcopy (an examination of the cervix, using a microscope so that any abnormal cells can be seen) and took cell samples for biopsy.

She says the specialist made her feel very comfortable and she had great support from her fiancé and her employer. But it was an agonising wait over the Christmas period for the results.

‘The specialist phoned me and explained the results of the biopsies and the treatment I would need. At the time it was absolutely terrifying and I was worried it would affect my ability to have children.’

Chloe’s specialist used the LLETZ treatment, which uses an electrical wire loop to remove abnormal cervical cells under local anaesthetic in the cervix.

‘I felt a lot better once I had my treatment, but I recently had to have another colposcopy to check that everything was fine, so that was another scary time.’ Fortunately, Chloe was given the all clear.

She says her diagnosis and need for treatment came as a shock to her friends.

‘A lot of my friends just won’t go for a smear. They say they’re uncomfortable. I tell them it will get a lot more uncomfortable if something’s wrong.’

Chloe says she regrets not having the free human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine when she was at high school. Immunisation helps protect against the two common types of high-risk HPV that cause up to 70 percent of cervical cancers.

‘My parents left the decision up to me and I chose not to have it. Now I urge girls to have it and tell them how things can change in such a short time.’

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Page last updated: 29 October 2014