What is cervical cancer? What type of problem leads to someone seeking out the services of a clinical negligence solicitor to make a cervical cancer claim?
The cervix is the neck of the womb. It runs from the womb to the vagina. Sometimes cells in the cervix become cancerous. This may happen in the deeper tissue (the ‘endocervix’) and become a type of cancer called ‘adenocarcinoma’. It may occur in the surface tissue (the ‘ectocervix’) and become ‘squamous cell carcinoma’. Part of the cervix called the ‘transformation zone’ is where cancers are most common.
Smear tests (cervical screening) are used to check whether there are any abnormal cells. In other words, they test the health of the cervix. They are a form of ‘cytology’ (the medical and scientific study of cells). The doctor or nurse looking after the patient looks at the transformation zone and then takes some tissue for testing. A specialist then examines this tissue under a microscope to look for changes.
According to Cancer Research, around 3,200 women develop cervical cancer each year. Of every 100 cancers diagnosed annually, 2 are cervical cancer. The condition is more common in younger women. Just over half of new cases are in women under 45. It is rare in women under 25. Although more people survive cervical cancer now than in the past, the disease is becoming more common. It is thought that between 2014 and 2035, the number of cases will increase by as much as 43%.
As with most cancers, early diagnosis is the key to the best outcome. Screening tests aim to spot abnormal cells before they become cancer. The abnormal cells may be described as ‘dyskaryosis’, which refers to some mild changes in the appearance of the cells covering the cervix’s surface. Removing the cells can prevent cancer from developing. If it has already developed, treatment can stop it from spreading.
GPs who suspect a woman may have cervical cancer should refer them to hospital urgently. Patients, who are referred in this manner, should be seen within two weeks. The first investigation is usually colposcopy. This close examination of the cervix by a form of magnifier enables the doctor to see abnormal tissue more clearly. Abnormal tissue may be taken for inspection under a microscope (a ‘biopsy’). Sometimes, the results show ‘CIN’, which is where the cells have started to change but have not yet become cancer.
Cervical cancer misdiagnosis
Some women may think their cervical cancer should have been diagnosed at an earlier stage.
The most common mistakes are:
- Wrongly reporting smear tests (reported as negative, when abnormalities were in fact present).
- GPs failing to refer women urgently when they have signs of cancer; should cervical cancer be suspected the NICE guidelines provide that the patient ought to be seen by a specialist within two weeks.
- Cancers being missed during colposcopy.
- Misinterpretation of scans such e.g. MRI/US.
- Incidental findings (associated with other treatment) being ignored.
Women of 25 to 49 should be offered a smear test every three years. Women of 50 to 64 only need one every five years. Women under 25 are unlikely to have cervical cancer and are not normally offered screening.
A number of women have been diagnosed with cervical cancer despite having regular smear tests. In some cases, the smear tests were wrongly reported, and because of mistakes, their cancer was diagnosed late.
Smear tests are not entirely accurate. They may not show abnormal cells in certain parts of the cervix. They may look at cells from the right part of the cervix but still not show the abnormalities. The test looks only at a sample of cells. There may be abnormal cells outside that sample. However, they are reliable 8 or 9 times out of 10. This means that if you have recently had two smear tests which were both reported as normal but then been diagnosed with cervical cancer, there may have been a mistake made.
Early diagnosis is vital for people to have the best outcomes. Delays in diagnosing cancer can be devastating. They can lead to more invasive treatment, including surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Radiotherapy for cervical cancer can leave women with bladder and bowel problems. Treatment can sometimes also prevent them from having children. In some of the worse cases, women have died because their cancer has been diagnosed too late.
If you think you have suffered due to missed, late or wrong diagnosis of cancer, Mooneerams Solicitors, in association with their trusted medical negligence partners can help you claim the compensation you deserve.
We aim to make the medical and cancer misdiagnosis claims process as stress-free as possible and promise to treat your case with understanding and sensitivity.
Compensation for a missed diagnosis of cancer will cover damages for pain and suffering. In addition, it includes any claim for loss of earnings, the cost of rehabilitation or therapy and any medical fees (not otherwise already covered).
In most cases, cervical cancer claims are handled on a No Win No Fee basis, meaning if your claim is not successful, you will have nothing to pay.
Call Mooneerams in complete confidentiality on 029 2048 3615 or send your details after filling in the box on this page for us to call you back at your convenience.