Each year, nearly 10,000 women receive the news: “Your Pap smear shows abnormal cell growth.” Nearly 3,700 of those women will die of cervical cancer, either from a lack of follow up, or from a failure to diagnose cervical cancer or a misdiagnosis. The humble Pap smear, performed in your doctor’s office, is the key to early detection and treatment of cervical cancer. This simple, painless test scrapes cells from the cervix to test for abnormal growth. When detected early, cervical cancer has a high survival rate.
What is Cervical Cancer?
The cervix is the lower portion of a woman’s uterus. Cervical cancer, like other forms of cancer, stems from excessive growth of abnormal cervical cells. Often, this abnormal growth is caused by the human papilloma virus, or HPV, which nearly all sexually active adults contract during their lifetime. In the early stages, cervical cancer produces little to no symptoms.
Cervical cancer may also cause these symptoms:
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding
- Unexplained menstrual cycle changes
- Bleeding from sexual intercourse or diaphragm insertion
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Blood-tinged vaginal discharge
Women should undergo annual Pap tests to identify abnormal cervical cell growth early, allowing the physician to perform the additional cervical cancer testing so vital to saving lives.
Such testing may include:
- Visual examination
- HPV DNA testing
- Colposcopy, a type of cervical examination that checks for abnormal cells
- Biopsy for laboratory examination
- Cone biopsy, also known as a LEEP procedure, to remove and more closely examine cervical cells for detection of cervical cancer
- Imaging tests (X-rays, MRI, CT, and PET scans)
When Cervical Cancer is Misdiagnosed
If cervical cancer is highly curable in the early stages, why do women still lose their lives from this disease? Many factors come into play, including a woman’s inability or failure to receive proper medical care. Still, the majority of cases of cervical cancer misdiagnosis relate to inaccurate or misleading test results. The Pap test is not 100% accurate, creating diagnostic errors or false-negative reports. These reports occur when abnormal cells are not detected, either due to the test itself or medical error in interpreting the results of the test. When a physician or laboratory fails to diagnosis your cervical cancer due to negligence or incompetence, you may have a case for medical malpractice. If you believe you have a case, contact a knowledgeable medical malpractice attorney today.