When a Cervical Cancer Diagnosis is Delayed Due to Malpractice or Negligence
The misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis of cervical cancer due to misread pap smears constitutes medical negligence. If you or a loved one is suffering from cervical cancer due to a misdiagnosis or incorrectly read pap smear, you may feel as though you have nowhere to turn – but you do. The lawyers at Meyers Evans Lupetin & Unatin focus on cancer misdiagnosis lawsuits. We encourage you to contact us to discuss your case and your options.
The Pap Smear
In 1943, George Papanicolaou, M.D., published his work on the diagnosis of cervical cancer by an examination of cells removed from the surface of the cervix. It was 15 or 20 years before the “Pap” was incorporated into most health care programs in North America. The development of the Pap smear raised exciting possibilities. It was possible, by looking at cells easily removed from a woman’s cervix during a routine pelvic examination, to diagnose conditions, which, if treated by simple means, could actually eliminate the possibility of a woman’s developing invasive cancer.
Even with all the possibilities created by Pap smear screening programs, this year, thousands of new cases of invasive cervical cancer will be diagnosed, and of those women suffering from that disease, many will die needlessly.
The Tragedy Of Misread Tests
There are two major reasons why women continue to die needlessly from cervical cancer: One is the failure to get annual gynecological exams and Pap smear evaluations. The other is the doctors’ or hospitals’ failure to properly perform and interpret Pap smears or to properly treat patients once the diagnosis of cancer or cancer-like conditions has been made.
Because a significant percentage of Pap smears are misread, many women are led to believe that they have no problem, when, in fact, cervical cancer may already be developing. Instead of preventing cancer through early detection, a misread Pap smear actually enables the cancer to grow.
In 1989, the American Medical Association documented that 15% to 30% of all Pap smears that reported showing no adverse change, in fact, had cancer or cancer-like cells present that required treatment. Most women who have these dangerous changes diagnosed can be cured with proper treatment. That’s why it is particularly tragic that errors continue to be made in the performing of Pap smears and in the diagnosis and treatment of the conditions they often reveal.
A Need For Vigilance
For many years, our investigations into cervical cancer cases have confirmed that where a woman has invasive cervical cancer diagnosed in spite of regular prior gynecologic exams and pap smears, it is usually true that the stage of cancer at the time of diagnosis resulted from medical mistakes by the treating primary care doctor or gynecologist or improper interpretation or reporting by the laboratory reviewing the pap smears or biopsies. This negligence is the leading cause of death or disability of patients found to have invasive cancer who received prior regular gynecologic exams and pap smears.
For this reason, we obtain an independent review of the medical records and Pap smear slides for each cervical cancer patient evaluated by our office. This review is conducted by a pathologist specially trained to determine whether or not danger signs existed that should have been detected by others. In proving such cases, we must identify the mistakes that caused our clients’ harm. In so doing, we hope to make it less likely for the persons who made those mistakes to repeat them. Without greater vigilance, these needless deaths will continue to occur.