Cervical cancer is both dangerous and preventable. Modern medicine has helped us understand the disease, risk factors, and how to prevent it. As such, cervical cancer has changed from one of America’s leading killer to only 0.7% of cancer cases.
However, over 12,000 American women develop the disease and 4,000 die each year. Most of these women are under 55 years of age. The consequences of pain, infertility, and death can be devastating. This tragedy is both heartbreaking and unnecessary. If you or someone you love has suffered due to a failure to diagnose cervical cancer, you may have a claim for Medical Malpractice.
Characteristics of Cervical Cancer
Cervical cancer refers to cancer that forms in the tissues of the cervix. Most cases occur in women who have previously contracted an HPV infection. It is a slow-moving cancer and usually develops from pre-cancerous “dysplastic” lesions into invasive cancer.
Some women are at an increased risk for cervical cancer. In addition to previously contracting HPV, risk factors include the following:
- A weak immune system
- Giving birth to many children
- Having many sexual partners
- Having first sexual intercourse at a young age
Symptoms of Cervical Cancer
Symptoms are more common as the disease develops, but may also manifest themselves earlier in some women. These symptoms may indicate the presence of cervical cancer:
- Bleeding that occurs between regular menstrual periods
- Bleeding after sexual intercourse or a pelvic exam
- Menstrual periods that are longer and heavier than before
- Bleeding going through menopause
- Low back Pain
- Painful urination
- Thick and foul smelling vaginal discharge
More advanced cervical cancer may also exhibit:
- Blood in the urine
- Urethral obstruction
Screening and Diagnosing Cervical Cancer
Cervical cancer develops from pre-cancerous lesions and spreads slowly. These facts allow effective screening to occur and may allow effective treatment before the disease progresses too far. Screening should begin at 21 years of age. Left unabated, cervical cancer can be devastating.
Doctor’s appointments may include a physical exam and history. This exam will check for general signs and symptoms that seem unusual. A patient’s history will also be taken. This may help to determine risk factors and anything suggesting follow-up in necessary.
Pap smears are the primary and most effective way to detect abnormal cell changes. The OB-GYN takes a sample of tissue from the cervix and sends it to the lab for analysis. The lab should look for abnormal or precancerous cells. If abnormalities are found, the woman should undergo a biopsy to determine if the cells are cancerous.
Doctors may use an HPV test to determine if a woman in infected with HPV. Some doctors may also utilize a colposcopy in which a lighted electric microscope is used to visually examine the cervix.
Treatment for Cervical Cancer
Although cervical cancer is potentially deadly, it is highly treatable if caught early. Treatment options include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. The option selected may be based upon the size of the tumor, whether it has spread, and the woman’s desire to have children. Oftentimes, more than one option may be used.
Minor surgeries may only remove the cervix, part of the vagina, and lymph nodes removed. Minor surgeries may allow the woman to have children in the future. In some instances, a complete hysterectomy may be required or selected.
Malpractice by Failure to Diagnose Cervical Cancer
While pap smears and biopsies are valuable tools to prevent and diagnose cancer, they are useless if not used properly. Unfortunately, this happens far too often.
Today’s pap smears are often interpreted by cytotechnologists and computers instead of medical doctors. Many hospitals outsource this task to outside laboratories where cytotechnologists read over 100 tests per day. The doctor may never review the results unless the less-qualified technician detects an abnormality. Tragically, abnormal results may slip through the cracks.
Other ways through which a diagnosis may be missed include the following:
- Misreading of test results
- Inadequate sample-taking technique
- Poor biopsy technique resulting in infertility or missing cancer
- Failure to follow up on abnormal results
- Failure to follow up on symptoms such as abnormal bleeding between menstrual cycles
- Failure to order appropriate treatment
- Failure to heed a patient’s complaints
Malpractice may also occur through improper treatment or a botched surgery. A correct diagnosis is useless if proper treatment does not occur.
These failures are inexcusable, unnecessary, and devastating. Each lost day increases the chance of death or invasive treatment. A missed or delayed diagnosis can lead to pain, surgery, lengthy hospital stays, missed work, expensive bills, and emotional turmoil. A missed diagnosis can not only end life, but prevent a young woman from becoming a mother and bringing life into the world. The responsible parties should be held accountable.
Contact A Cervical Cancer Attorney
Our attorneys know how to obtain results in cervical cancer cases. For a free consultation contact us to discuss your case with our experienced lawyers. Cases are taken on a contingency fee basis. You pay no fees unless we recover damages for you.