Cervical cancer is often called “the silent killer” because the early stages of the disease are often without obvious symptoms. When symptoms do turn up, it’s usually in the later stages of the disease, at which point the survival rate is much lower. Detecting cervical cancer as early as possible is the best way to increase a patient’s chances of successful treatment.
While it’s harder to diagnose in earlier stages because of a lack of symptoms, it’s not impossible. In some cases, a doctor’s failure to diagnose cervical cancer may be grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit. These cases generally result from one of the following scenarios:
- Failure to properly perform a Pap test
- Incorrectly interpret Pap test or biopsy results
- Not beginning treatment in a timely manner
In order to prove a malpractice claim, the following four elements must be demonstrated in the case:
- The doctor had a duty to diagnose the cervical cancer earlier than occurred.
- The doctor breached this duty to diagnose the disease.
- The patient suffered harm.
- The harm suffered by the patient was a result of the doctor’s breach of duty to diagnose the cervical cancer.
What Is Cervical Cancer?
The cervix is the 2-inch-long tube-shaped opening to the uterus. It is also known as the “birth canal.” This tube expands during childbirth so that the baby can exit the mother’s womb.
Cervical cancer occurs when abnormal cells grow in the cervix. It typically grows very slowly and may stay confined to one area of the cervix for many years. If not detected and treated, in advance stages, this cancer can spread to the uterus, the bladder, and other surrounding organs. Once it spreads beyond the cervix, this cancer is very difficult to treat.
In its early stages, there are typically not any symptoms reported in cervical cancer patients. In later stages, the following symptoms may be noticed:
- Weight loss
- Unusual vaginal discharge
- Abdominal pain
- Significant pain and/or bleeding during intercourse
- Bleeding outside of normal menstruation times
There are 2 main ways of detecting cervical cancer. A Pap test, or pap smear, is a medical procedure in which a doctor collects cervical cells to examine them for abnormalities. A pelvic exam is a physical examination by the doctor that includes checking for abnormalities in the shape and size of the vagina, ovaries, fallopian tubes, and bladder.
Women should have their first Pap test by around age 21, according to the American Cancer Society. Until they are in their 30s, all women should have a Pap test every 2 years. If they have 3 normal Pap test consecutively, then after the age of 30 they need only to have a Pap test every 3 years unless they have an immune system that has been weakened by certain health conditions.
Cervical cancer is marked by 5 main stages. These are:
- Stage 0 is when the cancer is confined to the superficial layer of the cervix.
- Stage I is more abnormal cell growth, still confined to the cervix.
- Stage II is when the cancer spreads beyond the cervix.
- Stage III is when the cancer spreads into the lower portion of the uterus.
- Stage IV is when the cancer has spread beyond the pelvis and into the bladder or other organs.
There are 3 basic options for treating cervical cancer: removing the uterus (hysterectomy); radiation therapy; and chemotherapy. The type of treatment will depend on the stage of cancer. A failure to diagnose cervical cancer in earlier stages typically means that a much more aggressive course of treatment is required.
Get Help With Failure To Diagnose Cervical Cancer Claims in Fort Lauderdale
While this disease is difficult to detect in the early stages, it is still possible. A later diagnosis can mean more radiation and chemotherapy, which often have serious side effects and complications. After a doctor’s failure to diagnose cervical cancer in a timely manner, it’s important to talk to Fort Lauderdale cervical cancer attorney Lisa Levine about your legal options. The time to file a medical malpractice claim is limited, so call 954-256-1820 to speak to an experienced cancer misdiagnosis attorney serving Palm Beach, Dade and Broward Counties as soon as possible.