Cervical Cancer Awareness Week 2015 - An infographic by the team at Fieldfisher Personal Injury and Medical Negligence Solicitors
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What is cervical cancer
The cervix is an organ connecting the uterus and vagina
Over 99% of cervical cancers are caused by a very common virus called the human papillomavirus (HPV) which causes changes to the cervical cells. These abnormal cells can be found through cervical screening. They are not cancerous and many return to normal, but others may go on to develop into cancer.
All sexually active adults can be infected with HPV and approximately 4 out of 5 people are exposed to the virus. Generally, most people don’t even know they have contracted the virus.
Cervical cancer is not always symptomatic and can be prevented by regular screening.
Early symptoms include:
- inter-menstrual bleeding,
- post-coital bleeding
- painful intercourse.
- unusual discharge.
Symptoms of more advanced cervical cancer may include:
- weight loss,
- back pain
- referred pain in the legs.
There are two main types of cervical cancer:
- Squamous cell - 80% of cervical cancers are diagnosed as squamous cell. Squamous cell cancers are composed of the flat cells that cover the surface of the cervix and often begin where the ectocervix joins the endocervix.
- Adenocarcinoma – more than 1 in 10 cervical cancers are diagnosed as adenocarcinoma . The cancer develops in the glandular cells which line the cervical canal. This type of cancer can be more difficult to detect with cervical screening tests because it develops within the cervical canal.
Other rare forms: adenosquamous, clear cell, small cell undifferentiated, lymphomas and sarcomas
Diagnosis should be reached by :
- clinical examination to include palpation of the abdomen and a vaginal assessment.
- smear for cytological examination
- colposcopy for direct visualisation to the cervix and properly directed biopsy.
After these have been performed, the histology (tissue samples) should be reviewed and staging investigations arranged. These include full blood count, chest x-ray and CT of the abdomen and pelvis.
Delays in Diagnosis
If cervical cancer is diagnosed early the chance of cure is normally good. Treatment for cervical cancer depends on the staging.
- Early cervical cancer can be treated by surgery ( LLETZ, cone biopsy or trachelectomy)
- Mid stage cervical cancer is usually treated with more invasive surgery (hysterectomy or Pelvic exenteration) and sometimes pelvic radiotherapy
- Late stage cervical cancer is treated with chemotherapy.
Mistakes in diagnosing cervical cancer can therefore be very serious. They usually involve a delay in diagnosis or errors in staging. To succeed in a medical negligence claim you need to prove that the error affected the outcome. Usually this means you need to prove that the cancer progressed to a more advanced stage. Therefore, delays of a few months are unlikely to be enough.
Medical negligence claims may be brought for:
- Failure to carry out adequate examination or take an accurate history
- Failure to refer a patient to a gynaecological oncologist for further investigation
- Mistakes in interpreting smear tests
- Mistaken diagnosis of cervical cancer often resulting in unnecessary surgery and/or a psychological reaction to the mistaken belief that they were seriously ill.
Fieldfisher's Case Studies
Expert solicitors at Fieldfisher have acted on behalf of the families and individuals who have suffered a loss due to a delay in diagnosis of cervical cancer which otherwise would not have occurred.
Diagnosis of cancer is devastating for the patient and their family at any time, but this news can be even more distressing if there has been a delay in discovery of their illness.
Over the years our specialist solicitors have fought for claims of maximum severity, to ensure that the individuals, their families or children are compensated for their loss with the maximum recovery possible.
Some of our recent cases include:
- Paul McNeil secures settlement for a mother's family after she battles against cervical cancer & a fatal late diagnosis
- Over £300,000 for family of cervical cancer patient who died due to delayed diagnosis of cervical cancer
- £700,000 recovered for Linda after delayed diagnosis of cervical cancer
- 15 years of abnormal smears failed to detect cancer