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Cervical cancer is largely preventable. Early pre-cancerous changes (dysplasia) can usually be detected by regular pap smears obtained during routine pelvic examinations. When caught and treated early, treatment is minimally invasive and usually successful. However, there are a significant number of errors made in the interpretation of pap smears. These mistakes often allow cancer to evolve and progress to the point that aggressive and invasive treatments are necessary. Sometimes, even with the best of care, cervical cancer is diagnosed too late to be curable.
Dysplasia occurs before cancerous cells appear in the cervix. Once cancer forms in the cervix, which is the opening to the uterus, the cancer can grow and spread to the uterus and ovaries.
When pre-cancerous cells are detected, they can be removed effectively through a simple, minimally invasive procedure called a cone biopsy. If allowed to progress too long a hysterectomy may be required. Later stages of cancer can mean aggressive and potentially harmful treatments including radiation and chemotherapy, and invasive, disfiguring surgery.
Medical Mistakes Can Delay Diagnosis of Cervical, Ovarian and Uterine Cancer
Most pap smears are read by cytotechnologists, in the laboratory, rather than by your doctor. According to the U.S. Preventive Task Force:
… many women who are tested receive inaccurate results due to interpretative or reporting errors by cytopathology laboratories or specimen collection errors by clinicians. The failure of some physicians to provide adequate follow-up for abnormal pap smears is another source of delay in the management of cervical dysplasia…
– Page 111, Guide to Clinical Preventive Services, Second Edition (1996)
Failure to detect dysplasia or early cancer on pap smear is not the only cause of cervical cancer misdiagnosis. Failure to diagnose cervical cancer, along with ovarian and uterine cancers, can be caused by doctors overlooking such symptoms as:
- Vaginal odor
- Unusual vaginal discharge (with or without blood)
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding
- Bladder symptoms
- Blood in urine
- Bowel symptoms
- Blood in stool
- Pelvic pain
- Painful during sex
Common medical errors include:
- Failure to take a careful and detailed history
- Failure to perform a thorough and complete physical examination
- Failure to recognize early warning signs and symptoms
- Failure to adequately follow up or communicate with the patient
- Failure to recommend tests due to financial concerns
- Failure to recommend or offer cervical cancer screening
- Failure to refer to appropriate specialists
- Improper performance or interpretation of pap smears or laboratory testing
- Communication errors between doctors and medical facilities
Injuries Caused by the Failure to Diagnose Cervical, Ovarian or Uterine Cancer
Types of harm caused by delayed damage of cervical, ovarian or uterine cancer can include:
- Premature death
- Inoperable cancer
- Severe physical pain
- Loss of reproductive and other organs
- Scaring and disfigurement
- Treatment which is more invasive, aggressive, and painful
- Treatment which is significantly more expensive
- Significantly increased recovery time
- Lost wages
- Long-term or permanent disability
How We Can Help
No amount of money can make up for a woman’s unnecessary or preventable death, or for the added pain of knowing that premature death would probably have been avoided had health care professionals acted properly. However, a woman’s premature death creates a financial burden on families, and the responsible party should bear that cost. In addition, delayed treatment of cervical, ovarian or uterine ovarian cancer creates additional health care costs, lost wages, and in some cases permanent disability.
If you or a loved one has been injured or lost their life due to what you suspect may have been a failure to diagnose cervical cancer, ovarian cancer or uterine cancer, you may be entitled to compensation including:
- Current and future medical bills
- Current and future loss of wages
- Long-term disability
- Long-term care expenses
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of companionship
- Burial expenses
Learn more about frequently asked questions related to cervical cancer misdiagnosis.
Collectively, New Jersey medical malpractice lawyers Michael L. Weiss, Esq. and Robert E. Paarz, Esq. have presented over 20 medical malpractice cases relating to the failure to diagnose cervical, ovarian or uterine cancer to juries and have helped many families achieve substantial financial recoveries. They are committed to using their knowledge and experience to help any individual or family who has suffered a severe, permanent injury or death due to medical malpractice to obtain fair compensation. If you believe you or a loved one may have experienced such an injury, please contact Weiss & Paarz, P.C., today.
*The firm handles cases in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. For cases outside those states, Weiss & Paarz works with local attorneys in the state where the medical care took place, at no additional cost to the client.