Cervical cancer occurs when abnormal cells on the cervix, the lower part of the uterus, grow out of control. Cervical cancer can often be successfully treated when it’s found early. It is usually found at a very early stage through a Pap test. Medical malpractice cases involving cervical cancer typically arise out of one of the following scenarios: (1) failure to vaccinate; (2) failure to screen; and (3) error in reading or reporting cytology results.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), cervical cancer used to be the leading cause of cancer death for women in the U.S. However, in the past 40 years, the death rate has declined significantly due to screening.
Most cervical cancer is caused by the human papillomavirus (“HPV”). HPV is spread by sexual contact. Over 25% of U.S. women test positive for HPV. You can have HPV for years and not know it. It stays in your body and can lead to cervical cancer years after you were infected. Pap tests were developed to detect changes in cervical cells before they turn into cancer. With timely detection and treatment, cervical cancer can be prevented.
Early detection begins with routine Pap tests. Failure to screen is one basis for a medical negligence claim. According to a study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), women previously diagnosed with high-grade cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN) have increased risk for cervical or vaginal cancer as they age and therefore required increased surveillance. Women with high-grade cervical changes had double the risk of developing cancer and increased mortality from cervical and vaginal cancer. About 4,000 women die from cervical cancer each year.
Symptoms of cervical cancer may include:
- Unexplained bleeding.
- Pain during sex.
- Vaginal discharge that is tinged with blood.
Successful treatment of cervical cancer rests on prevention — i.e., HPV vaccination in younger women or removal of dysplasia following a positive Pap test — or early surgical removal of cancerous lesions before it has a chance to metastasize. Adjuvant therapies, such as chemotherapy and radiation, are also available. Again, a delay in diagnosis and treatment, as well as failure to undertake preventative measures, may provide a basis for a medical malpractice claims under Ohio law.