Failure to Diagnose Cervical Cancer

Woman with Cervical Cancer at Doctor Office

Cervical cancer is one of the few types of cancer for which women are routinely screened, even when there is no reason to expect that cancer will be found. Women who receive routine pelvic exams from their OB/GYN or primary care physician will typically have a Pap smear as part of this examination, and most of these tests will come back negative for signs of cervical cancer.

As a general rule cervical cancers that are found tend to be slow-growing. If a woman has an annual pelvic exam, there is an excellent chance that any cancer or pre-cancerous lesions will be detected early, when the likelihood of successful treatment is high. The survival rate after five years for women with stage one cervical cancer is 91%, and it is nearly as high, at 88%, for those with stage two cancer. However, if cancer is not detected and treated until it has reached stage four, the five-year survival rate plummets to 14%.

It is reasonable to assume that with regular screening, few cervical cancers should reach an advanced stage in which treatment is much less likely to be successful. For the most part, this is true. Unfortunately, if a doctor fails to adequately screen patients, or a technician fails to identify signs of cancer from test results, cervical cancer can be allowed to progress unchecked.

How Cervical Cancer Can Go Undiagnosed

A 2015 Maine medical malpractice lawsuit illustrates how signs of cervical cancer can be overlooked by medical professionals. In that case, a 63 year old woman alleged that she had undergone regular pelvic exams screenings for cervical cancer at the same medical center, with the same doctor, in 2009, 2010, and 2011. Each time she complained of pain in the vaginal area, which her doctor noted. Despite her reported symptoms, the technician who reviewed her Pap smear slides found no evidence of cancer.

Some months after the 2011 exam, the woman returned to the medical center complaining of increased vaginal pain. She was examined by a different doctor at that time, who diagnosed her with stage three cervical cancer. A subsequent review of the slides from her previous Pap smears revealed that evidence of cancer had been present, but gone undiagnosed, in all of them.

As a result of the missed cervical cancer diagnosis, the woman was forced to undergo chemotherapy, multiple surgeries, and spent weeks in the hospital. Although she survived, she experienced ongoing pain and fatigue and needed a colostomy bag, and will likely have continuing medical complications.

She and her husband were awarded a total of $9.65 million dollars for past and future medical costs, pain and suffering, permanent impairment, and the husband's loss of consortium.

As with the case above, missed diagnosis may be the result of a physician who fails to investigate a patient's reported symptoms, or of a technician who performs a test improperly or interprets results incorrectly. Failure to diagnose cervical cancer under these or similar circumstances may constitute medical malpractice, and should be compensated.

What to Do if Your Cervical Cancer Was Misdiagnosed

Misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis, or failure to diagnose cervical cancer can lead to extended pain and suffering, as in the case above, or to an untimely death. If a woman sees her physician for regular pelvic exams and Pap smears, she has every right to expect that her diligence will be matched by that of her doctor and the medical practice, and that any cancer will be promptly detected.

If your doctor failed to detect your cancer when a reasonable doctor would have, or a technician failed to correctly interpret your test results, you may be entitled to compensation for your pain, suffering, and medical expenses. Every case is different, so you should consult with an experienced Oregon medical malpractice attorney to determine what your options are. There is only a limited amount of time in which to file a claim for medical malpractice, so don't delay or you may lose your right to seek compensation. You owe it to yourself and your family to know all of your options.

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Categories: Medical Malpractice

Blog Disclaimer

The information in this blog post is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice. You should not make a decision whether or not to contact a qualified medical malpractice attorney based upon the information in this blog post. No attorney-client relationship is formed nor should any such relationship be implied. If you require legal advice, please consult with a competent medical malpractice attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction.