Sarah Harper, legal director in Shoosmiths medical negligence team, comments:
“There are no obvious symptoms associated with cell changes in the cervix, including the ones that are most likely to become cancer, so unless you have a screen you will never know until it is too late and potentially life-saving treatment will be delayed.”
Many women worry about attending cervical screening appointments due to anxiety, embarrassment, or concerns about the procedure. Some may have lost confidence in the test following the widely publicised case of Julie O’Connor, who died from cervical cancer in February 2019 despite having had six ’negative’ smear tests. An expert witness at the ensuing inquest said that if the cancer had been correctly diagnosed earlier, Julie would have had surgery and a good prognosis.
Shoosmiths handled a case similar to Ms O’Connor’s where our client was in her early 30’s when her cervical smear test was misdiagnosed. Her condition was so serious that she had to have an urgent hysterectomy which ruined her plans to add to her family in the future. knew that, due to the misdiagnoses which prevented her early treatment, her life expectancy was limited and tragically she died in hospital at only 34 years of age. The errors which resulted in her tragic death have thankfully been addressed, and fewer results are now misinterpreted.
Perversely, the introduction of HPV (Human Papillomavirus) primary screening in place of the previous cytology test and the roll out of the HPV vaccine may further decrease the likelihood of women attending screening appointments. Although most cervical cancers are caused by the Human Papillomavirus, cervical screening is still important to have even if you have had the HPV vaccination. The vaccine will protect against the most common types of high-risk HPV that cause cervical cancers but does not protect against all types.
For many young women between 25 and 35 years old, delay or misdiagnosis of cervical cancer in particular can have catastrophic consequences. Since a radical hysterectomy is often required in these cases, the opportunity to start or expand a family will be lost. Many are also left with bladder damage and lymphoedema, all of which could have been avoided had an earlier, correct, diagnosis been made.
“It is important that women take up their appointments for cervical screening. A missed appointment is a missed opportunity. Women still need regular screening to detect any changes which should be acted on at an early stage. I would urge anyone who perhaps feels the HPV vaccine means there is no need to screen or whose confidence in the interpretation of test results is undermined or is simply too frightened or embarrassed to attend a cervical smear to think again.”
if you’re worried about cervical screening or your screening results, Macmillan has a great deal of information to explain, reassure and educate on their website at: https://www.macmillan.org.uk/cancer-awareness/cervical-screening-awareness-week
This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given. © Shoosmiths LLP 2024