Diagnosis with cervical cancer is frightening under any circumstances. Possibly facing a hysterectomy, chemotherapy, and even death is devastating to any woman, but that pain is deepened by unique anger and disbelief for women who have undergone regular gynecological exams in order to prevent just such a tragedy.
Cervical cancer is nearly always preventable. When caught early, the treatment is minimally invasive, and highly successful. A Pap smear, obtained during routine pelvic exams, detects pre-cancerous changes, called dysplasia, in the cervix. This is the primary reason for undergoing the simple, yet very unpleasant procedure.
Unfortunately, Pap smear error is not uncommon, leaving the impending cancer undetected and allowing it to grow. Undiagnosed cancer can progress to the point that aggressive and invasive treatments are required. Sometimes it is just too late for successful treatment and the misdiagnoses ends in untimely death.
Dysplasia occurs before cancerous cells form in the cervix. Once the cancer forms it can grow and spread to the surrounding reproductive organs, including the uterus and ovaries, making a hysterectomy the only life-saving option. Women who survive failure to diagnose cervical cancer are often needlessly robbed of their ability to bear children.
When pre-cancerous cells are detected early, they can be removed effectively through a simple, minimally invasive procedure called a cone biopsy, avoiding a hysterectomy and other aggressive cancer treatments.
Cancer that has grown and spread to the point that it cannot be fully treated by biopsy or even hysterectomy requires aggressive and harmful treatments. Chemotherapy and radiation ravage the body and can cause permanent health problems. Radiation treatments alone can result in problems including:
• Radiation-induced gastrointestinal reflux disease
• Radiation proctitis
• Radiation cystitis
Why cervical cancer is misdiagnosed
Although the test is performed in your doctor’s office, a Pap smear is usually read in the laboratory by technicians called cytotechnologists. Cytotechnologists are trained professionals, but they are not doctors.
When the test is actually read correctly, many doctors fail to follow up with patients regarding abnormal results, leading to delayed notification and delayed treatment.
In addition to filing to detect dysplasia and failing to follow up with patients, some doctors overlook the symptoms and warning signs of cervical cancer including:
• Abnormal vaginal bleeding
• Unusual vaginal discharge (with or without blood)
• Vaginal odor
• Pelvic pain
• Pain during sex
• Bowel symptoms
• Blood in stool
• Bladder symptoms
• Blood in urine
Delayed diagnosis of cervical cancer can change your life forever, and often ends in tragedy. It is avoidable medical negligence. Cervical cancer misdiagnosis can lead to:
• More aggressive treatments
• More expensive treatment
• Loss of reproductive organs
• Loss of enjoyment of life
• Permanent disability
New Jersey medical malpractice lawyer Michael L. Weiss, Esq. is currently litigating several cases on behalf of women with improperly delayed diagnosis of cervical cancer, and recently settled a claim stemming from an improperly delayed diagnosis of a cervical cancer for 1.8 million dollars.