Cervical Cancer Misdiagnosis Lawyer
Misdiagnosis of cervical cancer is often the result of medical negligence. If a cervical cancer misdiagnosis has harmed you or your loved one, a medical malpractice lawyer at Levin & Perconti can help you pursue substantial compensation.
A medical doctor owes patients a duty to provide a reasonable standard of care. When a doctor falls short of established medical standards, a patient can suffer serious harm. This is medical malpractice.
Women diagnosed with advanced-stage cervical cancer have often been let down by a health care provider who should have diagnosed the condition during its infancy. Our medical malpractice lawyers at Levin & Perconti are dedicated to holding these negligent health care providers accountable.
What Is Cervical Cancer?
Cervical cancer begins in the cells of a woman’s cervix. Before cancer develops, abnormal cells form in the cervical tissue, a condition known as dysplasia. Without medical intervention, these cells may become cancerous and spread within the cervix and to distant organs throughout the body.
Cervical cancer is deadly when allowed to progress to advanced stages, but routine screening has made it possible to easily detect this cancer in its earliest stages—often before it starts.
What Are the Risk Factors for Cervical Cancer?
The primary risk factor for cervical cancer is the human papillomavirus, or HPV. HPV is common among sexually active people. According to the CDC, HPV causes an estimated 90 percent of cervical cancers.
According to the National Cancer Institute, seven types of HPV infections create a high risk of cervical cancer. In addition to cervical cancer, these viruses can also cause genital warts.
While HPV is the most important risk factor, it is not the only one. According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology, women may face a heightened risk of developing cervical cancer if any of the following apply:
- Immune system deficiency
- Genital herpes
- Age between the late teens and mid-30s
- Low socioeconomic status
- The use of oral contraceptives
- Exposure to the chemical DES during pregnancy
How Can Cervical Cancer Be Prevented?
Cervical cancer is one of the few preventable cancers, and there are two primary prevention methods: HPV vaccinations and cervical cancer screening.
Gardasil 9 is nearly 100 percent effective in preventing all seven cancer-causing HPV types. It is most effective when administered during the pre-teen and teenage years before an individual becomes sexually active. However, some adults who are already sexually active may also benefit from the vaccine.
Cervical Cancer Screening
A Papanicolaou test, also known as a Pap test or Pap smear, is performed as part of a pelvic examination in a doctor’s office. During a Pap smear, a doctor uses a small brush to remove cells from the cervix and the surrounding area for examination under a microscope.
This allows a pathologist to see cancer cells if they are present. A pathologist can also see changes in non-cancerous cells that may be precursors to cancer. This allows health care providers to remove abnormal cells before they become cancerous.
You can receive HPV testing at the same time as a Pap smear.
Cervical Cancer Screening Guidelines
The United States Preventive Services Task Force recommends that women receive their first Pap smear at age 21, followed by retesting every three years until age 29.
From age 30 to 65 years, the task force recommends being screened for cervical cancer and HPV using one of the following methods:
- HPV test every five years and a Pap test every three years
- A combined HPV and Pap test once every five years
If HPV is detected, your doctor should prescribe annual Pap smears and HPV tests until the HPV test is negative.
Screening is not generally recommended for women who have had a hysterectomy with cervix removal or woman older than 65.
How Is Cervical Cancer Diagnosed?
If abnormal cells are detected during a Pap smear, your doctor should order additional tests. The presence of abnormal cells does not always mean cancer, but it warrants further testing.
The most common next step is a more detailed examination of the cervix using a specialized magnifying instrument to check for abnormal cells. This is known as a colposcopy.
A biopsy may be performed during the colposcopy, which involves the collection of a cervical tissue sample. Local anesthesia may be used. This may be accomplished through one of the following types of biopsies:
- Punch biopsy – The doctor uses a sharp tool to pinch off small tissue samples from the cervix.
- Endocervical curettage – The doctor uses a small, spoon-shaped instrument or thin brush to scrape a tissue sample from the cervix.
If these procedures continue to yield concerning results, the doctor may perform more extensive biopsies under general anesthesia, including the following:
- Electrical wire loop – The doctor uses a thin, low-voltage electrified wire to obtain a tissue sample, generally in the office.
- Cone biopsy – The doctor obtains a sample from deeper layers of cervical cells, often done in a hospital operating room.
Sometimes, a cone biopsy can also be used therapeutically to cut away precancerous or very early cancer cells.
If you are diagnosed with cervical cancer, the following tests are used to determine the stage of the cancer:
- Imaging tests, such as X-Ray, computed tomography (CT) scan, MRI, and positron emission tomography (PET) scan
- Visual examinations of the bladder and rectal areas with the assistance of special scopes
How Often Does Cervical Cancer Misdiagnosis Occur?
A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Pathology analyzed the cervical screening result for 13,633,071 women ages 30 and older between 2010 and 2018. According to the findings, HPV testing combined with Pap smears resulted in a false negative rate of 13.1 percent.
In the study, a Pap smear alone detected just 85.1 percent of cancers, while HPV testing only detected 77.5 percent.
A false negative is problematic because it does not trigger further testing. This allows the cancer to progress until the next routine cancer screening, which may be as long as five years later.
Is Cervical Cancer Misdiagnosis a Form of Medical Malpractice?
Cervical cancer misdiagnosis often stems from medical malpractice, but a misdiagnosis by itself is not medical malpractice. To qualify as medical malpractice, you must be able to prove that the following elements of negligence exist:
- You had established a doctor-patient relationship.
- The doctor failed to adhere to a reasonable standard of care, resulting in a cervical cancer misdiagnosis.
- You suffered an injury you would not have suffered if the doctor had followed a reasonable standard of care.
- You can establish a causal link between the breach of duty and your injuries.
Common Errors When Diagnosing Cervical Cancer
A breach of duty may be committed by the doctor you see or another health care provider that works with your doctor, even behind the scenes. The Moffitt Cancer Center in Florida has identified three critical errors that lead to a cervical cancer misdiagnosis:
- Errors during a Pap smear or biopsy
- Errors in interpreting or reporting the test results
- Failures by physicians to recommend appropriate follow-up testing on abnormal Pap smear results
A cervical cancer misdiagnosis may also occur due to errors outside of testing. The following symptoms should be investigated until an accurate diagnosis is reached:
- Unusual vaginal discharge
- Blood in the urine or stool
- Vaginal odor
- Pelvic pain
Failure to obtain and consider a woman’s full medical and personal history may constitute medical malpractice, particularly if it prevents critical additional screening and causes a delayed diagnosis.
Injuries Associated with the Misdiagnosis of Cervical Cancer
When cervical cancer is misdiagnosed, you are deprived of the opportunity for early treatment with minimal side effects. Instead, the cancer can progress, resulting in a reduced quality of life and a worsened prognosis.
Progression of Cancer
Cervical cancer diagnosed while cancer remains confined to the cervix has a five-year survival rate of 92 percent, according to the American Cancer Society. This decreases to 59 percent when the cancer spreads to areas near the cervix. It falls to 17 percent if the cancer spreads throughout the body before it is detected.
Cervical cancer detected when localized to the cervix can often be treated with minimally invasive procedures such as a cone biopsy and targeted radiation.
If the cancer spreads beyond the cervix, a hysterectomy is often necessary. Radiation may also be needed with or without chemotherapy. As the cancer progresses, increasingly aggressive treatment may be required. The side effects of chemotherapy and radiation can be traumatic and may include the following:
- Hair loss
- Mouth and tongue sores
- Difficulty swallowing
- Numbness, tingling, and pain in the extremities
- Kidney problems
- Brain fog
- Mood changes
- Sexual dysfunction
A cervical cancer misdiagnosis can have the following devastating long-term and permanent effects as a result of disease progression and damage caused by aggressive chemotherapy and radiation:
- Premature death
- Hormonal changes, such as early menopause
- Rheumatologic problems in the joints
- Peripheral neuropathy
- Hearing loss
- Dental problems
- Brain fog
- Chronic fatigue
- Digestive problems
- Bone marrow damage
- A heightened risk of secondary cancers
- Emotional trauma
What to Do If You Suspect You Have Been Misdiagnosed?
If you suspect you have cervical cancer but cannot obtain a diagnosis, you have a right to self-advocate until you receive the answers you need. Unfortunately, women often experience dismissal of their concerns when seeking medical attention.
It is important to keep records of every doctor that dismisses your concerns. This could prove useful in later legal action. In the meantime, seek a second, third, or fourth opinion, as many as it takes, until you receive a cervical cancer diagnosis or are satisfied it has been ruled out.
When seeking a diagnosis, you should request the following:
- A new Pap smear
- A colposcopy with a biopsy
- A referral to a specialist
Can You Sue a Doctor for Misdiagnosing Cervical Cancer?
If you can establish that the elements of negligence exist, you may sue any health care provider that caused or contributed to your misdiagnosis. A cancer misdiagnosis lawyer at Levin & Perconti can help you identify the errors that occurred, the liable parties, and the full extent of your injuries.
How Much is a Cervical Cancer Misdiagnosis Case Worth?
Case values vary based on the specific facts of the case. Many states limit the damages recoverable in medical malpractice cases, but Illinois does not impose such limits.
We can estimate your case value after reviewing your case details. The factors that influence compensation include the following:
- The severity of your injuries that stem from the misdiagnosis
- The financial impact of the misdiagnosis
- Whether you are the family member of someone who died because of a cervical cancer misdiagnosis
- The long-term impact of the misdiagnosis on your quality of life
Compensation for misdiagnosed cervical cancer may include the following economic and non-economic damages:
- Medical expenses, past and future
- Lost wages
- Projected future lost wages
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of bodily functions
- Grief and suffering from the loss
- Your loved one’s pain and suffering
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Your loved one’s medical expenses
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of support
- Lost income of your loved one
Why Hire the Cancer Misdiagnosis Attorneys at Levin & Perconti?
If you or your loved one has suffered harm due to a cervical cancer misdiagnosis, you need a law firm with extensive experience handling cancer misdiagnosis cases. We have helped thousands of clients win significant compensation from careless health care providers.
We have recovered more than a billion dollars on behalf of injured clients, including the following awards for clients who were misdiagnosed with cancer:
- $14 million record verdict against a doctor and hospital that failed to follow up on chest X-ray results, substantially delaying a lung cancer diagnosis
- $8.1 million verdict on behalf of a family whose mother died of lung cancer after a failure to diagnose
Our compassionate attorneys give every case detailed, personalized attention. We will not give up until we recover the compensation you deserve. Contact us today for a free consultation.
Not only were they so professional but also so caring and thoughtful. It was very difficult going over the facts in our mother's case but they were so compassionate and understanding and allowed us to be with them every step of the way. We were able to sit in on the depositions and we were really able to see how hard they worked on our behalf.