A delay in diagnosing cervical cancer is largely preventable. Early pre-cancerous changes or cervical dysplasia can usually be detected on routine or yearly pap smears. Dysplasia or abnormal cells are present on the cervix before cancerous cells appear. When diagnosed and treated early, treatment is usually minimally invasive and highly successful. Once cancer forms in the cervix, which is the opening to the uterus, and it is not treated, it can grow and spread to the uterus, ovaries, bowel, bladder and other organs.
Cancer screening using the Pap smear test can identify cervical abnormalities and potentially precancerous changes in the cells of the cervix or cervical tissue. However, many women who are tested for cervical cancer receive inaccurate test results due to a lab error or failure to report abnormal Pap smear findings leading to a delay in diagnosing and treating cervical cancer.
A failure to detect cervical dysplasia or early cervical cancer on a Pap smear is not the only cause of cervical cancer misdiagnosis. Failure to diagnose or delay in diagnosing cervical cancer can also be caused by a doctor ignoring a woman's symptoms or complaints of:
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding
- Vaginal odor
- Discoloration of vaginal discharge
- Abdominal pain
- Painful intercourse
- Bleeding after having sex
- Bladder problems
- Bowel changes
- Blood in stool or after having a bowel movement
If your Pap smear is abnormal or you begin to have any of the above symptoms, your physician may perform a colposcopy to get a biopsy of the outer cervix or a Loop Electrical Excision Procedure (LEEP) to biopsy the inner lining of the cervix to check for cervical intraepithelial neoplasia, a precursor to cervical cancer. Even though squamous cell cancer makes up for about 80-85% of the cervical cancer cases, adenocarcinoma, adenosquamous carcinoma, small cell carcinoma, neuroendocrine tumor, glassy cell carcinoma and villoglandular adenocarcinoma can also be present on the cervix.
Once cervical cancer is diagnosed, it is staged by clinical findings rather than surgical findings.
- In Stage 0, the cancer is confined to the outer layer of cervical cells and is often referred to as carcinoma in situ (CIS)
- In Stage I, the carcinoma extends deeper into the cervix, but not beyond it.
- In Stage II, the cervical cancer invades the uterus, but not the uterus or lower third of the vagina.
- In Stage III, the cancer tumor spread to the pelvic wall and/or lower third of the vagina. There may also be hydronephrosis or an enlarged non-functioning kidney.
- In Stage IV, the cancer has spread past the pelvis and may have involved the bladder or rectum. If it is Stage IVB, it has spread to distant organs such as the liver, lungs or bone.
With early diagnoses and treatment, 80-90% of women with Stage I cervical cancer and 50-65% with Stage II will be alive 5 years after the cervical cancer diagnosis was made. If the cancer developed into Stage III at the time of diagnosis, there is a 25-35% five-year survival rate. Women, who at the time of diagnosis were Stage IV disease, only have a 5-year survival rate of 15% or less.
If you believe there was a misdiagnosis of cervical cancer or there was a lab or pathology report error that caused a delay in diagnosing your cervical carcinoma, you may be eligible for compensation. Please feel free to contact one of our New Jersey or Philadelphia delay in diagnosing cancer lawyers, doctors or nurses at (215) 866-2424 for a strictly confidential and free consultation.