Failure to Diagnose Cervical Cancer

The American Cancer Society estimates that approximately 14,480 people in the US will be diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2021, and that approximately 4,290 women will die of the disease. While cervical cancer used to be a highly common cause of death among women, its fatality decreased with the development of preventative screening measures such as the Pap smear and the HPV test. When detected early, cervical cancer is generally treatable. When detected late, its survivability decreases. This is why a physician’s failure to diagnose cervical cancer—or delayed diagnosis of cervical cancer—can result in serious, even fatal consequences for the patient.

What Are Symptoms of Cervical Cancer?

Cervical cancer screening tests are important precisely because cervical cancer often presents no symptoms in its early stages. As the ACS describes, symptoms generally present once the cancer has spread. These include abdominal vaginal bleeding; unusual vaginal discharge; pain during sexual intercourse; pelvic pain; difficulties urinating and/or blood in urine; bowel difficulties; and swollen legs. As with other cancers, some symptoms are often associated with other conditions, which makes it crucial for medical practitioners to conduct all necessary tests as they pursue a diagnosis.

What Are Cervical Cancer Screening Tests?

There are two tests that can detect evidence of cervical cancer: the HPV test and the Pap test, also known as a pap smear. The HPV test is the "preferred test for cervical cancer screening" for patients between 25 and 65 years of age, according to the American Cancer Society. In some instances the HPV test will be ordered in conjunction with a Pap test, in which a speculum is used to keep the patient's vagina open while the physician uses an implement such as a brush to collect tissue from the exocervix and the endocervix. The three primary results of a Pap smear include "Negative for intraepithelial lesion or malignancy," in which no signs of cancer or pre-cancer are found; "Epithelial cell abnormalities," in which the test detects evidence of cancer or pre-cancer; and "Other malignant neoplasms," in which the test detects other forms of cancer that have spread to the cervix.

Is Cervical Cancer Preventable?

Preventative screening measures like the HPV test and Pap smear are essential to detecting early signs of cervical pre-cancer, which can generally be treated. Another essential measure is the HPV vaccine, a series of shots designed to prevent the development of HPV. It’s generally recommended that children receive the HPV vaccine between ages 9 and 12, or between 13 and 26 if they haven't already received it. As medical experts caution, of course, the vaccine does not provide 100% protection against cervical cancer or other forms of cancer.

Once a patient's been diagnosed with cervical cancer, their treatment plan will be determined based on their unique conditions, with options including surgery, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and radiation therapy.

How Do Doctors Fail to Diagnose Cervical Cancer?

As with other conditions, there are many ways medical practitioners may misdiagnose or fail to timely diagnose cervical cancer. In some cases, a doctor may misinterpret the results of a Pap test, or fail to properly conduct a Pap test. Lab technicians may incorrectly read test results; practitioners may put incorrect data in the patient's records, resulting in a failure to act on tests that show evidence of cervical cancer. Not all failures to diagnose are necessarily malpractice, but the results of negligent failures to diagnose can result in delayed treatment of a condition that becomes more difficult to treat in its advanced stages.

What Can I Do If a Doctor Failed to Diagnose My Cervical Cancer?

If you are the victim of a medical practitioner’s negligent failure to diagnose cervical cancer, you may be able to recover damages including medical expenses, lost income, loss of future earnings, and other possible economic damages. Failure to diagnose cervical cancer can be a complex form of malpractice to prove; in addition to a seasoned attorney, it may require the consultation of expert medical witnesses to demonstrate that a reasonable, competent doctor acting under similar circumstances would not have failed to make the diagnosis. The New York medical malpractice attorneys at the Law Offices of Thomas L. Gallivan have decades of experience seeking accountability from negligent medical providers and justice for the victims of misdiagnosed cervical cancer. Please reach out to our lawyers today to schedule a free consultation.

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