matte/ like the paint (likethepaint) wrote in little_details,
matte/ like the paint

Cervical Cancer - Diagnosis

As a follow up to my previous post. Setting: present day Cardiff, character is a 22 year old female who smokes, drinks and generally isn't all that concerned about her health.

I decided cervical cancer was the best route to take for the story line, and I've read a lot around this area (the most helpful being the UK cancer research page and WebMD pages, though if google searches around the terms 'cervical cancer diagnosis' 'cervical cancer symptoms' etc could bring it up, chances are I read it) and I've got a few questions, mostly 'is this right?' questions.

Based on the stages and the life expectancy I want my character to have, I decided stage IVB, which it would obviously become quickly apparent isn't treatable. My questions are largely on the diagnosis and symptoms.

1) By this stage she would be suffering quite bad non-menstrual bleeding, and likely stomach cramps, which would obviously send her to a doctor. The character in question has never had a pap smear before (she ignored the need) I assume a doctor would carry one out as a first priority, to rule out any abnormalities in the cervix. Does this sound about right?

2 Stage IV cancer is supposed to be pretty visible, as far as I can see, but how visible? Would a doctor spot this straight off during a pap smear? If it isn't would it be visible in the colposcopy?

3) At what point does the doctor admit a diagnosis of cancer is looking likely? If the doctor can spot the cancer, would they admit this or prefer to use fairly neutral language? I'm inclined to think (based on experiences with other health problems) that they'll stay neutral right up until the point where a biopsy has confirmed 100% that it is cancer. Even if they wouldn't say cancer, what would they say? How much would they admit at the pap smear and then the colposcopy?

Specifics aren't strictly necessary since the conversation isn't going to be written directly, rather relayed from the character to another.

4) Similarly, what would the character hear when listening to the doctor in this situation? Again, specifics aren't so much needed, since she will likely say "it's nothing" no matter what, but I'd like to know whether she'll be feeling particularly like she's likely to receive a cancer diagnosis or not.

Search terms: for these questions specifically I googled varieties of 'when do doctors say it's cancer' 'cervical cancer diagnosis' and 'visible cancer in smear test / colposcopy' I've also looked at lots of accounts of how people felt when they received their specific cancer diagnosis, but these have looked mainly at the final diagnosis when the doctor has said it's 100% cancer, not how they heard what the doctor said in early stages.
Tags: uk: health care and hospitals, ~medicine: illnesses: cancers

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