I’ve been referred for genetic counseling… What does that mean?

Most people who are referred for genetic counseling have never heard of it before, and can be quite intimidated by the sound of it – is someone going to try to change my genes?? Like gene therapy or something? Or is it more like Gattaca?? Designer babies????


What is genetic counseling?


Genetic counseling is: “a process of helping people understand and adapt to the medical, psychological and familial implications of genetic contributions to disease”

–       National Society of Genetic Counselors


But what does this mean for me if I receive genetic counseling?


Meeting with a genetic counselor involves both education and supportive counseling. In terms of education, genetic counselors are a resource to help you to understand complex results and information. A genetic counselor’s training emphasizes the importance of translating technical scientific and medical information into formats that anyone can understand (including the use of visual aids, analogies, models, etc.). Part of a genetic counselor’s job is to tailor the information provided to your needs – what is it you want to know? In terms of the supportive component, examples of this can include supporting decision making around whether or not to have a genetic test or identifying appropriate community resources for your situation.


Since genetic counseling is still relatively unknown, the Canadian Association of Genetic Counselors (CAGC) organizes an annual Genetic Counseling Awareness Week. This week (Nov. 18 – 24) is the 2012 Genetic Counseling Awareness week!  Check out this site for news and events in your area: http://gcawareness.wordpress.com/

The theme of this year’s genetic counseling awareness week is ‘Genetic Counseling Across the Lifespan’, so for this week, I will be writing posts about scenarios in which you could receive genetic counseling at different ages and life stages. Feel free to respond to my posts with questions – what do you want to


– Catriona Hippman, Certified Genetic Counselor

Check out our national professional organization’s website here: https://cagc-accg.ca/


Think you might want to be a genetic counselor?


Contact one of the accredited genetic counseling training programs for more information: http://www.abgc.net/Training_Program_Accreditation/Accredited_Programs.asp

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My First Mammogram

The year I turned 40 was a year of new beginnings.  My daughter started kindergarten, my son graduated from high school, I got a promotion at work and new and exciting things were coming my way.

I went to my annual check up, my family doctor handed me a pink piece of paper and said, “Now that you’re forty, it’s time to start getting mammograms.”  I felt two things – first, wow!  How did I get so old?  Second, well, now I’ll be joining the reluctant club of thousands of women who get their boobs squished once a year.  I was NOT looking forward to it.  So, I do what I usually do when don’t want to do something – pretend I’ve forgotten about it…

…Until January of last year when a high school friend lost her battle with breast cancer, leaving behind a loving family and beautiful teenage daughter.  This woman was the most outgoing, friendly and loving person you could ever meet.  The kind that would do anything for a friend, who always had a ready smile and a fantastic, contagious positive attitude – despite, or perhaps in spite of, the hell I’m sure she was going through.  We lost touch after high school, but became “Facebook Friends” in recent years.

When I heard she had passed away on New Year’s Eve, I made my first New Year’s resolution ever – to start getting mammograms every year on her birthday, January 17th.    I booked my first appointment immediately.

I don’t really know what I was expecting but it certainly wasn’t awful.  It was very simple to book the appointment and not much of a wait to get in.  When I arrived at the Screening Mammography program at BC Women’s on the day of my appointment, I was greeted by a friendly receptionist and was ushered in a few moments later.  I was taken to a change room and asked to remove my bra, but to keep my shirt on.  I’d remembered not to wear deodorant or powder – yea!  The room was a little chilly (!) and I was nervous, but the technician made me feel quite comfortable.  She was matter of fact and efficient, which I really appreciated.  It’s not every day that you let a stranger lift and tug at your breasts.  One squish horizontally, one squish vertically and it was over and done in a matter of minutes.  So what had all the fuss been about?  Simple, fast and relatively discomfort free.

A few weeks later, I received a letter from the Screening Mammography Program indicating that my exam was normal and to come back in one year.  I am so grateful that this wonderful program is available to us here in BC free of charge and thankful that it saves so many lives.

I’m so sorry that my friend Shawna lost her life to this dreadful disease but I know she would be thrilled that she was the catalyst for so many of her friends to begin having their annual mammograms.  My next appointment is booked for January 17th.  Join me in honouring the legacy of any one of our sisters, friends, mothers, grandmothers who have suffered with this disease and book your mammogram today.

From the Screening Mammography Program website:

Screening is for healthy people who show no signs of illness, but can be at risk. By age 50, women should make screening mammograms part of their regular health routine.

  • About one in nine Canadian women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. One in 28 women is expected to die from the disease.
  • Screening mammograms are the international gold standard for detecting breast cancer early.
  • Mammograms can usually find lumps two or three years before you or your health care provider can feel them.
  • Finding cancer early can mean more treatment options and a better ability to recover.

Melissa Watt, WHRI Research Coordinator

For more information about breast health and prevention, please visit www.smpbc.ca

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Have you ever had a Urinary Tract Infection; and don’t know when it will end, how to stop it and if it will happen again?

Well you are not alone! According to the American National Kidney Foundation:

  • 20% of all women will have one Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) in their lifetime
  • 30% of women who have had one UTI will have another UTI
  • 80% of women who have had at least two UTIs will develop recurrent (multiple) UTIs 

So what is a UTI, exactly?

A UTI is a bacterial infection within the urinary tract. The infection can affect the urethra (urethritis), the bladder (cystitis) and the kidney (pyelonephritis). Since the urinary tract connects all these parts of the body, a minor bacterial urethra infection or bladder infection may travel up to the kidney and lead to serious consequences.

What are the symptoms of a UTI?

  • have frequent urge to urinate without being able to pass much urine
  • burning or pain during urination
  • itching or pain in urethra
  • urine may be cloudy or reddish in color
  • urine may have unusual odor
  • may feel some discomfort in lower abdomen or back
  • chills and fever ( may be present if infection is severe – especially if spread to kidneys        – see the doctor)
  • you may not have all of these symptoms, as they can vary between different people

What if I have these symptoms? Should I see a doctor?

  • A bladder infection may lead to more serious UTI (kidney infection)
  • Many sexually transmitted diseases have UTI-like symptoms (i.e. Chlamydia, etc.). Without treatment, STI can lead to serious long-term problems (such as:  Pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility)
  • As mentioned earlier, many women encounter re-occurrence of a UTI. Your healthcare provider is the best source of information for questions and concerns related to your medical problem.

Take home message:  Go see the doctor regardless of the severity; it may be more than you think it is.

What will the doctor do?

Your doctor will assess your symptoms and take a sample of your urine to test for bacteria and white blood cells. White blood cells fight infection, and the presence of white blood cells in urine is a sign of infection.

How are UTIs treated?

UTIs are treated with antibiotics and symptoms should begin to improve within a day of starting antibiotics (Finish all the antibiotic pills – otherwise your infection might come back!)
Kidney infection is more severe than bladder infection. It will require intravenous antibiotics and (depending on symptoms) you may be sent home to rest, or may be hospitalized.

How to prevent recurrent UTI??

  1. Changes in Birth Control – spermicides and diaphragm both increase the probability of getting a UTI
  2. Drink more fluid and urinate after intercourse – there is currently no proof, but many doctors recommend this because drinking more water does not harm the body and urination after intercourse may help flush out germs
  3. Wipe from front to back – This reduces the spread of bacteria from anus to the urethra (most UTI are caused by E-coli – a type of bacteria found in the gastrointestinal tract)
  4. Avoid douching, bubble baths, vaginal deodorants or perfumed feminine hygiene products – these products may disrupt the good bacteria (the microbiome) within your vagina that protect you from infections
  5. .Practice good hygiene – wash genital area once a day with plain water or mild soap and water. Rinse well and dry the area thoroughly (keeps the area clean and dry).
  6. What about CRANBERRY JUICE or EXTRACT? – Studies that have looked at using cranberry juice, extract, or other cranberry based supplements to prevent UTIs are not conclusive. If you are prone to getting UTIs, doctors may recommend this because even though the evidence is not strong, there is little harm to consuming cranberries. However, once you have a UTI, cranberry juice will not treat or get rid of the UTI.

Use this to find a find a BC family physician! http://find.healthlinkbc.ca/search.aspx?q=walk-in+clinic&rt=sv+rg

Sandy Lee, WHRI CO-OP Student
Emily Wagner, Infectious Diseases Research Manager

For More Information:

Donald, W. Kemper. (2005). BC Health Guide. (3rd ed., Vol.138, p.141). British Columbia, BC: Healthwise. 

T. Ernesto Figueroa. (2012). Urinary Tract Infection. Teens Health from Nemours. Retrieved October 11, 2012 from http://kidshealth.org/teen/sexual_health/stds/uti. html#.

(2010). Urinary Tract Infection. National Kidney Foundation, Www.kidney.org Retrieved October 12, 2012 from http://www.kidney.org/atoz/pdf/uti.pdf.

(2011). Patient Information: Urinary Tract Infections in Adults ( The Basics). Up to Date. Retrieved October 11, 2012 from http://www.uptodate.com/contents/urinary-tract-inf ections-in-adults-the-basics?source=see_link#.

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What is a doula?

What is a doula?  I hear this question so often that I am more surprised to meet someone who knows what a doula is than to have someone ask me “what is a doula?”.  To be honest, I didn’t really know much about doulas until I started training to become one! 

During my second year of medical school I had the opportunity to take part in the Fir Square Interprofessional Student Doula Support Program as the community service learning option of my Doctor, Patient and Society (DPAS) course.  The Fir Square Doula Program is funded by the Collaboration for Maternal and Newborn Health and brings together nursing, midwifery, and medical students once a week to participate in a doula class.  In these classes we learned about various topics including the labour process, ways to increase comfort during labour, pregnant woman yoga, addictions and their impact on pregnancy, etc…and we had guest speakers from various organizations in Vancouver who work with pregnant women dealing with particularly challenging circumstances, such as:

  • Oak Tree Clinic – specialized HIV/AIDS care for individuals including pregnant women
  • Sheway – Pregnancy outreach program located in the inner city of Vancouver
  • Fir Square – non-judgmental support for pregnant women with substance misuse at BC Women’s Hospital

Additionally, we were grouped into interdisciplinary teams of three and accepted clients as their doula.  Specifically, our goal is to provide doula services free of charge to marginalized women who may be able to benefit from having a doula but cannot afford to pay for a doula. 

According to DONA International:

The word “doula” comes from the ancient Greek meaning “a woman who serves” and is now used to refer to a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after birth; or who provides emotional and practical support during the postpartum period.”

What does a doula do?

Doulas can do anything!  Well, just about anything.  Doulas will meet with their clients throughout their pregnancy, see how they are doing and assist them with information gathering as needed.  We also discuss birth expectations and arrangements surrounding our client’s birth so that we can get to know our clients and help advocate for them during the uncertainties and craziness of birth. We can guarantee our presence for women whose support people may not be able to attend the birth but at the same time we can stand to the side or even leave the room when many support people unexpectedly show up and the woman is in great hands.  During the labour process we can whip out our toolbox of comfort measures to encourage our client to try different positions and movements to provide pain relief.  We can also help our client make phone calls, get juice or water, assist them in the shower, make sure to bring the music they picked out, etc…  When the pushing begins we can be the person standing at the head of the bed encouraging our client to breathe and push but if her partner is doing a fantastic job, we will readily step aside.  We can even be the person holding the camera up in the air while hiding out in the washroom (to stay out of the way of all the health care providers that come in) to help capture pictures of the baby as he/she comes out (trust me, it’s actually lots of fun!).  Basically, doulas are there to support our clients with the non-medical aspects of their birth throughout the labour and delivery period.

Who needs a doula?

Basically, anyone!  In my limited experience, the most common reason why a woman would like to have a doula is if she her support people cannot guarantee that they can attend their birth.  Either their home is very far away from the hospital or they have other children that their partner needs to stay home and care for.  A doula provides women with a familiar face during their labour and delivery.  While women do not usually know exactly which health care professional will be at their birth, they will usually know the doula who will be present.  A doula can provide comfort as someone who already understands the woman’s needs and can help them find ways to improve their birthing experience according to the woman’s preferences.  Women who have partners who have never been at a birth or feel anxious in the setting may also find that they can benefit from having a doula who may be able to support both the woman and her support people.  And to top it off, research has shown that doulas make a positive difference for the woman and her baby!

Why become a doula?

As a doula, I have had the most rewarding experiences that I can recall.  It’s an incredible privilege when women open up their lives to me at a vulnerable, stressful, exciting, but also extremely personal time of their lives.  I have had the opportunity to share laughter with a woman who had a very smooth pregnancy and birth and also the opportunity to be a shoulder to cry on for a woman who faced numerous challenges during her pregnancy, birth, and post-partum periods.  I have also had the opportunity to support a woman who battled addiction and poverty and I have developed immense respect for her as she fought through her challenges to become the mother that her baby needed.  I cannot even properly describe how moved I was when a mother who had limited and precious time alone with her baby requested for me to feed her baby and so that I could share that intimate moment with her.  Although I have had only a very small taste of what it is like to be a doula, I am unreservedly certain that it is one of the most memorable and worthwhile experiences to be had.

For more information about doulas please visit Penny Simkin’s (“the mother of modern childbirth and birth doulas”) website and DONA International.

Erica Chhoa, WHRI Summer Student

Posted in BC Womens Hospital, Our Community | 1 Comment

Help Us Help You!

A healthy vagina contains many different types of bacteria. The presence of these ‘good’ bacteria helps keep other ‘bad’ bacteria in check. Any imbalance in the number and type of bacteria that are present in the vagina has a direct impact on our health as women. Bacteria that live normally in the vagina differ from woman to woman and can even change dramatically in short periods of time in the same woman. Hence the one-size-fits all approach to the diagnosis and treatment of vaginal infections is lacking in many aspects. This often leads to misdiagnosis and mistreatment which become the cause for recurrent vaginal infections in women. In order to develop an effective treatment method to keep us healthy, it is important that the health care practitioners are able to understand the difference between a normal healthy vaginal microbiota and an unhealthy one.

Over the past few years we have seen a massive increase in the number of research studies being done to help improve the health and wellbeing of women suffering with various urogenital infections around the globe. These projects aim to improve the education provided to women and their health care providers on the vaginal microbiota. , and develop better diagnostic and therapeutic options that would ideally allow us as women to self-treat from the comfort and privacy of our home (e.g. probiotics).

The Vaginal Microbiome Group Initiative or VOGUE is among one of the many research studies taking place at the Women’s Health Research Institute. The aim of this project is to study the microbial ecosystem of the vagina in varying states of health and disease. A dedicated team of researchers are aiming to characterize the vaginal microbiome in diverse populations of women, in order to develop novel diagnostic tools and interventions that will help maintain women’s health and prevent future recurrent infections inCanadaand around the world.

Researchers are doing their share by undertaking such projects and using their knowledge and capabilities to their fullest in an attempt to understand our bodies and help prevent infections and diseases. We as women can help them by participating in their ongoing research.

To learn more about VOGUE or be a part of the study, click here.

Shivinder Dhillon, WHRI Coop Student
Emily Wagner, Infectious Diseases Research Manager

Posted in BC Womens Hospital, Global Women's Health, Our Community, Research, Sexual Health, Uncategorized, Women's Health | Leave a comment

Book Review: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot

At the age of 16, I won a student summer job at the University of Aberdeen in the Department of Cell Pathology. It was the first time I had worked in a lab, and I jokingly refer to it as the summer I attempted to cure cancer. In all seriousness, it was very exciting for me as a high school student to work in a university laboratory and learn techniques such as pipetting (with much fancier pipettes than were available in my high school chemistry labs) and cell culture protocols, and to use sophisticated equipment to count cells and visualize them. I remember discussing the experiment I was to conduct that summer – the impact of a particular amino acid (arginine) side chain of a topoisomerase inhibitor (NU/ICRF 510) on cancer cells vs. non-cancer cells – and kept hearing the terms “HeLa” and “fibroblast” thrown around. I managed to figure out that “HeLa” cells were cancer cells and “fibroblasts” were non-cancer cells. I never stopped to wonder where the cells came from, or how they were obtained.

The book “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”, by Rebecca Skloot, tells that story with compassion and skill. The cells known as “HeLa” cells are so named because of the woman from whose tissue they originated: “He” for Henrietta and “La” for Lacks. Henrietta developed cervical cancer in the early 1950s and, in the course of diagnosis, some of her cervical tissue was taken for the purposes of research. This doesn’t sound particularly noteworthy, but three key pieces of information are missing: 1) the tissue was taken for research without Henrietta’s (or her family’s) consent, 2) researchers went on to send her cells around the world, and 3) companies began to charge for researchers to purchase her cells. Skloot expertly interweaves three story threads: the story of Henrietta Lacks and her family, the state of the scientific/medical world at the time and since, and also the portrayals of the family and relevant scientific advances in the media. This book is not only compelling (I didn’t want to put it down), but also informative and thought-provoking. I was inspired to download several academic papers that were mentioned in the book, and I now have a completely new perspective on Research Ethics Boards and submissions of ethics applications to conduct research. This book is a must read for anyone conducting human research, and I strongly recommend it for everyone else!

Photograph of Henrietta Lacks

– Catriona Hippman, Research Program Manager

You might find the following sites interesting that were referenced in the book:


This week in Virology

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National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women

ROSEDecember 6 is the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women in Canada. On this day 22 years ago, 14 young women were senselessly murdered at l’École Polytechnique de Montréal. They died because they were women.

Today we commemorate all the women whose lives have been cut short by an unjustified act of violence, and promote awareness of an issue that still prevails in our so-called modern society. Violence against women does not only mean physical abuse, it can also take the form of emotional, verbal, sexual, financial, and cultural abuse, and it can occur across all ethnic, racial, social, age and economic groups.

In the 22 years since the horrific events in Montreal, we have made some progress towards ending violence against women, but I strongly believe that we need to put in a more concerted effort as a community. Campaigns like the ‘White Ribbon’ are helping raise awareness of this issue in men and boys, and sharing the different ways in to get involved and help prevent gender-based violence.

December 6 is a day of remembrance, but it is also a day to take action, to find out how you personally can help to end violence against women.

For more information about violence against women, and how you can help, The Woman Abuse Response Program at BC Women’s Hospital has put together a list of resources:

If you are experiencing abuse, or know someone who is, and need to talk –
call VictimLINK 1-800-563-0808 (24 hour crisis line)

Shivinder Dhillon, WHRI Coop Student
Emily Wagner, Infectious Diseases Research Manager

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December 1 is World AIDS Day

World AIDS Day 1The theme for this year’s World AIDS Day is ‘Getting to Zero: Zero New HIV Infections, Zero Discrimination and Zero AIDS related Deaths’. This year marks the launch of the ‘Getting to Zero’ Campaign, which will run until 2015 and work towards achieving the AIDS-related Millennium Development Goals.

There have been significant advances in the treatment of HIV/AIDS since the first cases of HIV infection surfaced 30 years ago. At that time, AIDS was considered a ‘silent killer’, but now, more and more people living with HIV are leading a healthy and normal life. Yes, ‘It’s Different Now’! With the increasing awareness about the spread and progression of the virus in the medical and the public sectors, the general attitude towards being HIV positive has changed. It is not considered a death sentence any more, and the ‘It’s Different Now’ campaign is taking it further by bringing the discrimination against HIV positive people to ‘Zero’.

This is not to say that we have conquered the disease but we are definitely on our way and it is important that we all play our part in reaching the ultimate goal of ‘Getting to Zero’. The first step in the eradication of HIV is to stop the spread. At an individual level, we can help by getting tested for the virus as most HIV transmission occurs from people who are unaware of their HIV status. Hence, the earlier one becomes aware of their HIV status the better it is for them and their community. HIV affects all of us in some form or the other and it is important to get more people tested and connected to care and treatment as fast as we can.

To learn more about the ‘It’s different Now’ campaign and find HIV testing centres, go to http://itsdifferentnow.org/

Shivinder Dhillon, WHRI Coop Student
Emily Wagner, Infectious Diseases Research Manager

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My Pap test came back abnormal! Do I have cancer?!

In November 2009, my doctor’s office called and asked me to discuss my recent Pap test.  I didn’t think too much of it at the time and agreed to come in the following day.

At my appointment, my GP advised that my Pap test had come back abnormal.  I still wasn’t alarmed.  I work in women’s health research, in the area of infectious disease.  Many of the studies I work on involve participants getting Pap tests, so I see these results all the time. Although I am not a doctor or a nurse, I know that many things can cause an abnormal Pap test.  Things like infection… perhaps I have a yeast or bacterial infection?  An STD?  Unlikely, but it’s good to get checked and be sure…  Perhaps when my doctor did the Pap test, she didn’t get enough of the right cells and the Pap test was unreadable?   All these thoughts ran through my head as likely causes.

However, this wasn’t the case.  My doctor said that my Pap test indicated CIN II/III.  Hmmm….  Cervical intraepithelial neoplasia, grade 2 or 3, or moderate to severe cervical dysplasia.  This is the point in my visit where I forgot everything I had learned in my career and lost the plot.  I HAVE CANCER!!!!  “No, my doctor assured me, “you do not have cancer.  However, there are some changes on your cervix that, over time, could turn into cancer.”  My doctor advised me that, as Pap smears are not diagnostic tests, simply a very effective screening tool, she was referring me for a colposcopy to take a closer look at these changes.

A few weeks later, I arrived at the Colposcopy Clinic for my appointment.  I was very nervous and still convinced I had cancer.  After watching the extremely dated, but very reassuring video, I was led into the clinic.  The nurse asked me a few questions (date of birth, last menstrual period, any allergies?  That sort of thing) and led me to get changed.  I was provided with two gowns (I never know whether to do them up at the back or the front!) and some very stylish paper booties.

After waiting what seemed like forever, I was led into an exam room.  I was greeted by a lovely nurse and the gynecologist who let me know what I could expect during the exam.  A colposcopy is much like a Pap test.  Same fabulous position (bottom so far down the exam table that it feels like it’s going to fall off, let your knees just “flop” open, please, feet in the always cold stirrups), and mostly the same procedure.  A speculum was inserted, just like a Pap test, but a colposcope was used to take a really close look at my (I’m convinced) cancer-ridden cervix.  (A colposcope is a large, electric microscope that is positioned approximately 30 cm from the vagina.  It has a really bright light on the end which helps the doctor see the cervix (and any changes) really clearly)

The very cool thing about this procedure was that I could watch the entire thing on a monitor mounted on the wall to the right of me.  It’s not every day a girl gets to see her cervix, and let me tell you, it was very cool!

The doctor then washed my cervix with a vinegar solution so that any abnormal areas would show up more clearly.  And there it was… a white blob that looked like a jelly fish had exploded on my lovely pink cervix.  Now I was really scared.  Surely this was cancer!  However, the doctor advised that his impression was that I did not have cancer.  Yes, there were some moderate changes that he wanted to take a biopsy of so that the pathologist could look for changes in the cells that might indicate that cancer is present or likely to develop.

The biopsy felt like a little pinch. Unfortunately, I did watch the biopsy being taken on the monitor and I wish I hadn’t.  As the cervix is quite vascular (has a lot of blood vessels), it does bleed a bit when a biopsy is done.  Magnified about 4 billion times, it looks like it should really hurt.  I honestly felt like a little pinch, but that picture told me it should hurt a lot more than it did.  The biopsy itself was about half the size of a pencil eraser.  My doctor would have the results back in a few weeks, the gynecologist said.

Off I went with some mild spotting and cramping that would last a day or two.  A little less frightened and reassured that I likely did not have cancer (although I still wasn’t entirely convinced).  And VERY relieved that I am religious in getting my annual Pap test!  What if I had skipped a couple of years??? You know, things get busy… life takes over…

A few weeks later, back at my doctor’s office, I was told that the biopsy showed CIN II or moderate dysplasia.  This meant that the abnormal cells involved about one-half of the thickness of the surface lining of the cervix.  It also meant that I did not have cancer!  It did, however, mean that these changes would need to be treated.  If the biopsy showed CIN I, these changes likely would have gone away on their own.  I would have another Pap test in 6 months or so and my doctor would have kept a close eye on things.  But, with CIN II, treatment is usually required.

Several weeks later, I was back at the Colposcopy Clinic for a LEEP.  A LEEP procedure uses a thin wire loop electrode to painlessly and quickly cut away the affected tissues on the cervix.

After watching another dated but nevertheless informative video, I was taken into the clinic room.  I opted not to watch this procedure!  Again, it’s much like having a Pap test.  Nothing hurt, but the freezing that they put in my cervix felt “pinchy” and the adrenaline made my heart pound a little.  Other than that, it was pain free and I was out the door in 15 minutes.  Three days of mild cramping and spotting followed.  No sex, exercise, or swimming for three weeks to prevent infection and to allow my cervix to heal, and no strenuous exercise for one week.  NO PROBLEM!

About six months later, I had a follow up colposcopy appointment.  Everything looked great and there were no abnormal cells remaining.  Hooray!  Since that time, I have only had normal Pap smears.

This whole experience taught me that I have been doing a great thing for myself in getting my Pap tests done faithfully.  I am very thankful I live in a place where access to Pap testing is free and encouraged.  It is one of the most important things we women can do to protect ourselves from cervical cancer.  Along with Pap testing, those of younger generations will also have the HPV vaccine. My young daughter, hopefully, will not have to go through the same worry that I did.

I only wish that other women, in less fortunate places, had the same access to these live saving screenings and diagnostic procedures, not to mention the HPV vaccine.

Thanks for allowing me to share my story with you.  I sincerely hope that it will encourage you to call your doctor, and book an appointment to get your Pap test today!

Melissa Lambrecht, WHRI Research Assistant

For further reading, I have included some links below to a few great websites that discuss HPV and Pap testing.







Posted in Our Community, Powerful Women, Sexual Health, Sexually Transmitted Infections, Women's Health | Tagged , , , , , | 10 Comments

Why Maternal Age Matters

National study measures how advanced maternal age affects mothers and their babies

Women over 35 face higher risks of birth complications but good prenatal care can help manage the risks, a new report suggests. A report released from the Canadian Institute for Health Information entitled In Due Time: Why Maternal Age Matters, looked at more than one million births across Canada from 2006 to 2009 in order to examine the impact that advanced maternal age can have on both mothers and their babies.
While many older mothers are able to have healthy birth experiences, the risks associated with pregnancy and childbirth begin to rise around age 35 and increase dramatically for mothers aged 40 and older. According to the largest Canadian study ever done on risks associated with advanced maternal age:

– Almost one in five births in Canada is to a mother over the age of 35

– Fifty percent of first-time mothers over 40 have a cesarean delivery

– Babies born to older mothers more likely to face adverse birth outcomes

– One in every eight mothers 40 or older developed gestational diabetes (compared to 1 in 12 for the 35 to 39 age group and 1 in 24 for the 20 to 24 age group)

– One in every nine babies of older moms (age 40+) are born prematurely (compared to 1 in 11 in the 35-to-39 age group and 1 in 13 in the 20 to 34 group)

– Mothers age 40 and older were at least three times more likely to develop certain complications than younger mothers

For expectant women 35 or older, especially fist-time mothers, these findings highlight the need for good prenatal care and prenatal screening for potential problems.
Read the full report: http://secure.cihi.ca/cihiweb/products/AIB_InDueTime_WhyMaternalAgeMatters_E.pdf

Kathryn Dewar, Health Services Delivery Research Manager

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