It's not minor surgery when it's happening to ME!
February 17, 2012 10:36 AM   Subscribe

Ladyparts-filter. Looking for advice/experiences from women who were diagnosed with cervical dysplasia/cancer and had the LEEP biopsy and/or laser ablation.

A couple years ago I had an abnormal pap, and then a colposcopy. Results showed "mild dysplasia" and we went with wait-and-see. Fast-forward through a couple more paps and colpos, and it's now time for surgery. Multiple docs agree that a shallow LEEP cone with laser ablation on the edges is the correct treatement.

Intellectually, I know that this is super common, I'm lucky we caught it early, it's not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, blah blah blah. Emotionally, I'm not so calm. I am reaching out to the women of the hivemind for some support! If you have gone through this, I could use some advice!

Specifically, I'm looking for your anecdotes, tips, and advice. At this point, all I know is that I may have cramps/pain/bleeding and should plan to take a few days off. I just read this which really freaked/grossed me out, but I'd rather be prepared than not.
posted by radioamy to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
It's not a fun process but you will come through it. If you can arrange easy access to a hot tub, that was the thing that helped ease the discomfort the most. And yes, the discharge isn't pleasant, but it wasn't as bad as that other poster's. As in all things ladyparts, YMMV.

I had mine done in 2000 and have had only normal paps since. Which is kind of the whole point.
posted by ambrosia at 11:14 AM on February 17, 2012

I know the whole concept of this procedure sounds scary and really anxiety producing, but you will do just fine and it will be behind you soon. I experienced this about 5 years ago, and I was just a bundle of nerves, both for the pain/discomfort of the procedure and also all the what ifs that my mind conjured up. I found that for me personally, the colposcopy had been more painful/uncomfortable and the LEEP was not as bad for some reason. I was awake, and had some kind of lovely narcotic along with local anesthesia. The procedure went faster than I thought, and I didnt feel too much discomfort on the way home. I rested and honestly felt fine the next day. I do remember the discharge being a particularly unpleasant color, but I don't think there was any kind of strong odor or anything like that. I healed quickly and have had only normal paps in the years since, so it was a big success. I'm sure yours will be too. Hugs!
posted by Rapunzel1111 at 11:20 AM on February 17, 2012

I had a cryosurgical removal of a cervical dysplasia done about 20 years ago, and it was pretty straightforward and I honestly did not have much discomfort and very minimal bleeding afterwards. I did take a couple days off work, just because it was a good excuse to do so, and, you know, they must have given me those Tylenol 3s for a reason. I don't know how different the recovery expectations are for the other procedures. Not to sound cavalier, but in the grand scheme of things that can go wrong with your body and require surgicomedical intervention, it really was quiet minor.
I've had no recurrence, and had no difficulty subsequently conceiving or giving birth.
posted by SomeTrickPony at 11:26 AM on February 17, 2012

I had one about a year ago--I was also really scared, but honestly it was almost easier than the colposcopy! I took some Tylenol that day, didn't exercise for about a week, and didn't have sex for a month. I remember that the discharge was gross looking, but the smell was actually pretty minor.

I have an IUD, and they couldn't move the strings aside, so they cut them really short, but that has been the biggest change--that, and two normal paps since. :) I hope yours goes well too!
posted by besonders at 11:39 AM on February 17, 2012

I had a cone biopsy a few years ago and had about the same experience as SomeTrickPony. I was under general anesthesia, and was a maybe a little more tired than usual for a couple of days (though that could be explained by being at home with a lively preschooler), but had minimal bleeding and can't remember much, if any discomfort. Here's to a successful surgery and uneventful recovery.
posted by mogget at 11:43 AM on February 17, 2012

I also had a LEEP, back in 2008, after 2 colposcopies. The LEEP isn't pleasant, but it's about the same pain-wise as a colposcopy. You have the scary build up with the random weird-looking equipment, then the moment where it does hurt (and because it's cauterizing at the same time, your vagina may smell like smoke, which is a unique experience), and then it stops hurting very quickly and you have the 'WHEW!' moment. Then you get dressed, head home, and relax on the couch with a hot water bottle, pain killers, and chocolates, as necessary. I was back at my grad program the next day, although feeling a bit fragile.

Take whatever dose of painkiller they recommend beforehand. My cramping afterwards was about a first-day-of-cycle bad and lasted about two days. Remember, the people with the grossest/most painful experiences write about them on the internet the most! Mine was unpleasant but not awful, and I imagine most ladies have the same outcome. The discharge was mostly that antibacterial stuff you see them swabbing on folks in ER - the brown stuff? It's smells a bit, but it mostly comes out while you're peeing anyway, so just flush it with prejudice!

My subsequent paps have been beautiful, and my gyn says my cervix healed up and it was hard to tell I had ever been LEEPed. This is a tiny blip on your health radar, and you'll feel like a rock star with a smokin' vagina after you get it done.

Great job doing the scary stuff that's important for your health. It's not easy!
posted by BigJen at 11:48 AM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

My experience was much like BigJen's, down to later gynos saying they were surprised to hear I had had a leep. I was back at my office job the next day.

I remember that it hurt because they used a local and didn't wait even a minute for it to take effect. (Accurate or not, this is what I remember.) So it was like, ow, ow, ow... what is that smell?

If I had to do it again, I would have had someone drive me home. I was only woozy when I looked at the specimen container on the counter and realized that that was a part of ME there. No real pain afterward, though the brown gunk coming out of me was disconcerting, to say the least.
posted by lemniskate at 12:27 PM on February 17, 2012

I had cryosurgery instead of lasers, but my experience is much like the others. It was no more painful than the colposcopy, though it took longer and I had stressed myself out so much that I was a shaky wreck. And my doctor was kind of an asshole, and his assistant was someone I had vaguely known in high school and not particularly liked.

It's scary and invasive and not what anyone would schedule for a fun day. But unless you have never had cramps, you already know what it's going to feel like. There will be surprising new noises and equipment and, yes, possibly some smoke, but the nerves in your cervix are not like the ones in your fingers or mouth. Most women have this done with no local (I was told it would a) hurt worse than the surgery b) interfere with the liquid nitrogen) and drive themselves home. It's better if you have someone to drive, because you're going to have adrenaline-shakes afterwards.

Like someone else said, I felt a little fragile the next day. I'm not actually sure how much of that was stress-related and how much was directly related to the procedure. I could have gone to work, and in the years since I have gone to work the next day after worse, but I had my mom around and took advantage of a day to rest.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:55 PM on February 17, 2012

I had it done years ago. There was definitely black discharge and horrible smoke smell. It also felt sore. The worst part for me was that it was done without my permission--I was put under for another procedure, and while he was down there my OB-GYN decided to do a LEEP too. I think without that it would've been fine.
posted by schroedinger at 1:00 PM on February 17, 2012

You have the scary build up with the random weird-looking equipment, then the moment where it does hurt.

This really surprises me. I had been told multiple times that it was standard operating procedure to give a local for a LEEP. Which is what I experienced - the procedure itself was completely painless; I couldn't feel a thing. The next few days were crampy, but on par with what it's like when I'm on the rag.

In fact, the worst part of the experience was the local anesthesia, because it contained adrenaline, which gave me a huge rush of that pounding-heart-anxiety feeling right before the procedure. The doctor warned me before she gave me the shot, though, so I knew what was causing it.

But the procedure itself = zero pain or sensation.
posted by sock puppet of mystery! at 1:22 PM on February 17, 2012

I had a cone biopsy done under general anaesthetic nearly twenty years ago, and the worst thing I remember was how cold I was in recovery afterwards, and how a nurse kept leaving my upper torso uncovered when she did obs on me, and how it took me fifteen minutes to wriggle the blankets back up, just in time for her to whip them back off again. Some cramping and bleeding for a while - but no problems with pregnancy, and no abnormal smears since then. You'll be ok.
posted by thylacinthine at 5:52 PM on February 17, 2012

I've had the LEEP after my abnormal pap showed CIN II cells, it didn't hurt at all. The after effects (black discharge, weird smell) were a bit upsetting, but not much on the grand scheme of things. I did go skiing the next week so it couldn't have been that debilitating. I had the adrenaline shot and I thought it felt kind of cool, but that's just me. All my pap smears since then have been normal. My doc also does a HPV test, which has also been negative. Hope it all goes well for you.
posted by poissonrouge at 6:44 PM on February 17, 2012

I had a cone biopsy in November for carcinoma in situ (CIN III)...which actually turned out to be Stage IA1, but thankfully, I had nice clear margins. This is a deeper chunk of cervix than what you'll be having removed, and I also had to have a D&C because of abnormal glandular cells, so presumably your recovery will be easier. I was in more pain afterward than they expected, they usually just send women home with extra-strength Tylenol, but I absolutely needed Percoset for the rest of the day and night. After that, I only needed it at night for just a few nights to quell the ache. (The colpo was murder for me, I am not looking forward to follow-ups.)

The black coffee-grounds stuff is what they use to staunch the bleeding, it's weird when it starts coming out, but I knew to expect it and it didn't bother me. The discharge odor is unsettling and was eventually upsetting -- I expected a week of that, not nearly a month. If it lasts more than a week, call your doc and get a scrip for some acijel. (I would have done this had I not misunderstood the doc in my post-operative state.)
posted by desuetude at 7:57 PM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

I had the LEEP about eight years ago -- similar to the ladies above, the procedure itself wasn't a big deal. I went to the dr's office, experienced some mild discomfort and was out within thirty minutes.

I was stupid and young enough to get in a car right after the procedure and drive for ten hours. Even though that dumb move didn't really make things worse/hurt/etc, I'd give yourself some emotional time off, if you can. There was, I seem to recall, some vaginal antibiotic that got put up in the parts for about a week.

Another thing: I always ask doctors and dentists to tell me exactly what they are going to do and when. This gives me (someone who likes to mentally visualize and prepare for things) time to process what's about to happen, instead of the dentist just being like "open your mouth" and then there's that burnt tooth smell and I'm gagging.
posted by mrfuga0 at 9:21 PM on February 17, 2012

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