My Experience With HSIL And The LEEP Procedure

A needle, over a foot long, to administer anaesthetics. Took a pic while waiting for the doctor to come in to the exam room.

Note: I wrote this on my phone about 3 weeks ago, on my commute home from my LEEP procedure.  It took me some time to revisit this entry, since a big part of me wanted to forget about it.

As I ride the subway home from the hospital, feet apart to manage the sway, I wonder to myself. Do I feel weak from being nervous, or from having an electrical current shooting through me?

In November, after my annual Pap smear at a gyno’s whom, if my experiences and the many others found on her Yelp and ZocDoc page may be believed, I’m sure is committing medical billing fraud…I found out I have high grade cervical lesions – HSIL. Just a year ago, it was low grade (LSIL). For most people, HPV won’t impact their lives much. It comes and it goes with little harm done. But then there’s people like me, who despite only having two boyfriends ever, gets the “bad strain”. The high risk kind, that may lead to cervical cancer in ten years.

What’s funny but not funny? Gardasil, the HPV vaccine, protects against the high risk strain I have, (type 16). I had a prescription for it 3 years ago, but I was turned away at the hospital’s pharmacy. They said it wasn’t covered by Medicaid, however in hind sight, I wonder about the validity of that. I couldn’t afford the out of pocket expenses of $150 x 3 shots at the time. But now I’ve paid literally thousands because of this virus. Just a colposcopy, the mandatory follow up to an abnormal pap, costs me $5000. And yes, that’s after my insurance paid.

But I don’t want to talk about the financial issues that plague patients and the healthcare system. I want to talk about LEEP, in case someone out there wants to know how my experience went. I couldn’t find much myself before the procedure, past badly written forum posts.

So I had a LEEP procedure today. Still on my way home from it, as I type this on my phone. This is the best explanation I’ve found about it online.

I went to the gynocological oncology department of NYU and, like all my other appointments, waited. For a long time. “Glad I took the rest of the day off,” I told myself. They tested my urine to make sure I wasn’t pregnant, took my vitals, and after more waiting in the exam room with a sheet tied around my hips, the doctor and her nurse walked in.

It’s true that the procedure was about 10-15 minutes in length. I laid back on the table as it raised my hips up 4 feet, my heels in the plastic stirrups. They used a plastic speculum, the color of Peptobismal, with orangey-gold hinges, and a thick plastic tube. I’m not sure if it was really connected to the speculum but they held the two together; it was a small vacuum. Internet tells me the vacuum sucks up ashes that may scatter as she burns away my cervical tissue. Note it’s all plastic, so the doctor and nurse don’t get electrocuted! As for me? The nurse peeled off a 12″ long rectangular white pad and stuck it to my upper thigh. “This will ground you,” she said. Like how you ground your house, or your computer, you get grounded so the electrified metal they stick inside your vagina doesn’t electrocute you! Ha. I make it sound scary, but it’s not. I routinely get a cardiogram at my regular doctor’s for my annual exam, and it’s the same. He sticks a bunch of white pads all over my chest, connected to wires. The current runs from the machine, through my body, and then back to the machine. If you were blind and dead, you’d never know. It’s painless.

Not to say my experience with LEEP was completely painless.  I hear it can be, for some. But these things always vary from person to person.

So I was on the table, the speculum was in, and things got started. The doctor flushed the area and swabbed with those giant q-tips you should be familiar with from routine paps. She was cleaning, for better visibility. Today I’m ovulating, so there’s a lot (yes I keep track! It’s fun). Then she swabbed something black, I believe the bottle said “iodine”. More cleaning of the area, this time to prevent infections. Then the nurse held my hand…and a 14″ long needle slide inside me. It kissed my cervix and hurt slightly, but I’d say it was a 3/10 on the pain scale. 10 being the most painful. Getting cauterized on my labia without an anaesthetics, for example, is something I rate an 11/10.

The nurse and doctor worked fast. My IUD, a copper Paragard, was still in place. She used a long, scissor-like tool to shorten the strings then pull it aside so it wasn’t in the way. The nurse handed her the LEEP tool. It was kind of like something a dentist would use…a long, blue stick with a gold, round nub at the end. She touched that to my insides, and I jumped. I screamed. 8/10.

Luckily she’s good and didn’t let it hit anything else when I jumped, but it was close. She then removed my IUD…and I’m cool with that. I’d rather nothing obscures her vision or the electrified baton up my vagina, and maybe that frees a hand for her so she doesn’t burn me painfully again. It barely hurt during removal (1/10), though I recall insertion was a (9/10) when I got it put in. That’s another thing “they say” wouldn’t hurt, and varies from person to person.

There was a high pitched drill sound, very reminiscent of being at a dentist, as she burned away tissue.  It no longer hurt at all. Who knows, maybe I needed that extra minute for the anaesthetics to kick in. Maybe digging your nails in to your palm as a distraction is a good technique, or repeatedly thinking in your head, “You’re okay. You’re okay. You’re okay…”

It was over soon. Things got sealed for labs, things were tossed in the red biohazard bin. They let me lay there to regain myself, and the nurse felt my forehead. “You’re not hot, that’s good. Some people get light headed after anything touches their cervix.”  They electronically submitted paperwork to a lab, made sure I was alright, asked if I had questions, and left. Apparently if I bleed so much that I need a new pad after an hour, I gotta run to the ER.  I’m still on the train ride home, so we’ll see. They said it’s rare.

UPDATE!  Conclusion update here; spoilers….everything worked out in 2016 :)


8 thoughts on “My Experience With HSIL And The LEEP Procedure

  1. I had a LEEP on August 11th this year. I had the procedure once before in 1999.

    I also have HPV the worst strain. I got it from sexual assault I experienced as a child so for me the whole thing was traumatic from the very beginning. The first time was awful. I was 19 and hadn’t really dealt much with the trauma. I told the doctor I had trauma and requested general anesthesia because I was afraid of panicking during the procedure. He was very reluctant to agree but eventually complied and walked me through the procedure. Day of the surgery he said he would not administer general anesthesia and would go with his original plan (he told me to suck it up). It just got worse from there really. He had 4 nurses physically restrain me and screamed at me during the entire procedure. My first LEEP a lot of tissue was removed. I only had mild to moderate and yet he cut out a tremendous amount. When tested the tissue showed no precancerous cells only mild inflammation. While I am immensely grateful it was only inflammation that he butchered my cervix like that is unsettling. He seemed to violently hate women in general some of the things he said still make my skin crawl/blood boil.

    The 2nd one I received a notice in the mail informing me of the procedure. I had no idea I had even had an abnormal pap so it was a shock. I live in a different country now and I never had to sign anything nor were my results discussed in any detail so I have no idea the severity of the findings (results are seldom discussed in Sweden). I didn’t think general anesthesia was possible, I was still thinking of the resentful shitfit the other doctor had so I was too scared to even mention anything lest this doctor be offended and choose my appointment to have a mental breakdown. I am happy to say it went better. The anesthetic contained Adrenalin (did it in America I don’t know) but that was for me the hardest part, Adrenalin feels like a panic attack. I hated the whole thing of course but there was no screaming, cussing, forceful restraint and so forth. The doctor said if I ever need this done again I should do general anesthesia and I definitely will. The pain is less so far because there was very little taken, they used the procedure more as a biopsy. Right now I don’t what will happen, what is happening. The procedure costs about 45 USD here I don’t remember how much it cost in the states but I do know it caused me to lose my insurance and be ineligible for insurance.

    • I’m so sorry you went through that, what a terrible experience. That first doctor, wow. Glad to hear the 2nd one was much more conservative with the LEEP. Thank you for sharing your story, it seemed like there wasn’t much talk about LEEP experiences online and we should get our stories out there. The emotional toll having to go through all this really sucks, especially because of the threat of it coming back, and all we want for is for it to just finally be over with.

      • After I had my operation I did some online research and like you I really couldn’t find anything recent or much in the way of personal experiences. Thank you for sharing your experience. Waiting for the results is very stressful and having this strain of HPV makes it even more so because I am in such a high risk category. I was lucky the first time that it was only inflammation and I can only hope that this time I am so lucky. How tests are there for screening? Aside from the pelvic and pap I mean.

    • You’re going to be okay!! LEEP sounds way more scarier than it actually was, and it was really the least painful of the procedures I’ve had down there. Try to relax and trust your doctor :) I think my IUD may have been the reason the first attempt she made had stung me, but everything after that was virtually painless. Good luck!

      • Well I just wanna say that this post has been very informative . I just wanna get rid of anything that has the potential to turn to cancer in my body. Thank you for your reply. I’m going on Dec 22 for LEEP and thankfully my Dr prescribed me a Valium 😕. I’m gonna be so nervous and she said that should help with the nerves. Just out of curiosity do you remember how long you bled after?

  2. I have fibromyaglia, so my experience may be different to the lady who said 3/10 on the needle. I was screaming though when the doctor gave me the four shots. Especially the one nearest to my abdomen. I was in tremendous pain. The head doc came in and applied some Lidocaine before the surgery There was some jarring sensation at one point and the doctor apologized. I am not sure what happened. They said I healed nicely and in my later tests I came back negative for HPV. I really pushed healthy lifestyle everything from echinacea to exercise. If it was placebo effect, hey it worked. Two tests are clear of HPV and one colpo since showed benign cells.

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