Cervical smears and misreporting: Cervical screening awareness week 2024

Aerial view of doctor stethoscope and computer laptop
2 minute read

Cervical cancer is one of the most common cancers diagnosed in women in the UK. The majority of women who are diagnosed quickly undergo curable treatment. The cervical screening programme plays an important role in diagnosing cervical cancer early, which often facilitates curative treatment. In fact, it can detect even pre-cancerous cells, prompting treatment before those cells turn cancerous. Attending cervical screening (commonly known as the smear test) is therefore very important.

Uptake of smear testing is still low, with almost one third of patients with a cervix not responding to their invitation for a test. It is not the most pleasant of procedures, so perhaps this is unsurprising, but it is disappointing when these tests are literally saving lives.

The tests are not foolproof however. Like all tests, they do not guarantee that cancer is not present. There are occasions when abnormalities are missed, meaning that abnormal cells will develop into cancer, or cervical cancer is present already, but not detected.

Enable Law are supporting clients who have been diagnosed with cancer because their cervical smears were misreported as “normal”. On internal review, in accordance with the NHS Cervical Screening Programme (CSP) Invasive Cancer Audit, it has subsequently come to light that there were pre-cancerous, or early cancerous cells that, if spotted, would have responded well to minimally invasive treatment.   However, unfortunately, those patients were wrongly reassured. If cervical cancer is diagnosed late, treatment isn’t always curative.

It is natural to make mistakes and miss abnormal cells, occasionally. But sometimes, these abnormalities are there to be seen and have been overlooked as in the cases that we have been involved in. In all of those cases so far, the people responsible for interpreting those tests have admitted they negligently overlooked the abnormalities. The cost of that mistake is the patient’s health, and sometimes, their life too.

We are here to help

If you have cervical cancer and have reason to believe that your smear was wrongly reported, please do get in touch. Unfortunately, misreporting of cervical smears is something we see all too frequently.

Enable Law specialises in medical negligence, and we are here to advise and help you if you have concerns about the treatment of your cancer care. Should you have any concerns regarding your medical care and for a free and confidential discussion, contact us on 0800 044 8488 or fill in our contact form here and we will call you back.

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