This week marks Cervical Screening Awareness Week (19 to 24 June 2023) raising awareness of the importance of regular cervical screening to detect and prevent cervical cancer.

In the same week, the Government published a press release advising that the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination programme now recommends a single dose vaccination from September 2023 for teenagers and those eligible under the age of 25.

The HPV vaccine was introduced in 2008 and offered to both boys and girls (aged between 11 to 12 years) to prevent against HPV-related cancers, such as:

  • Cervical cancer
  • Some mouth and throat cancers
  • Some cancers of the anus and genital areas

Studies have shown that the HPV vaccine offers “robust protection” and can help prevent HPV-related cancers. It is hoped that the 3-yearly cervical screening campaign in the UK will be phased out once the younger generation avoid catching the sexually transmitted virus, HPV, because they are fully vaccinated against it.

However, whilst the HPV vaccine is considered one of the most successful vaccination programmes, it is important to continue to raise awareness of cervical screening to detect cancers early. This is especially so in the older generations who may not even be aware of their HPV virus, if they do not take up the free cervical smear service at their GP Surgery, local Women’s Hospital or sexual health clinic.

While cervical screening does save lives, there are unfortunately cases where medical negligence can occur, which can lead to serious harm and avoidable injury and so a compensation claim may be applicable.

Cervical screening, also known as ‘smear tests’, are designed to detect abnormal cells in the cervix, which can be an early sign of cancer. The test involves taking a sample of cells from the cervix, which is then sent to a laboratory for testing. The pre-cancerous cell changes are reported and those cells are then burned away, preventing them ever having the opportunity to become full-blown cancer.

Unfortunately, usually due to human error, medical negligence can occur at any stage of the screening process, for example:

  • Failure of the GP or nurse to carry out an adequate examination.
  • Poor note-taking when discussing medical history.
  • Failure to refer a patient for further investigations.
  • Interpretation of the test result, for example, a patient may receive a false positive or negative, which could potentially cause a patient to undergo unnecessary treatment or even receive a delayed diagnosis.
  • Filing a positive result instead of actioning it.

In some cases, a delayed diagnosis of cervical cancer could have a detrimental effect on the treatment available to the patient, the prognosis and life expectancy.

In some cases, patients may experience avoidable harm and may also suffer from the following side effects from treatment:

  • Lymphoedema – if a patient undergoes radiotherapy to the lymph nodes, one or both legs can swell, there can also be swelling of the genitals.
  • Changes to the ovaries – following radiotherapy a patient will experience early menopause (if they have not already gone through it).
  • Bladder and bowel changes – a patient could experience permanent effects to their bladder and bowel from treatment. A patient may experience more frequent, looser bowel movements and may also need to pass urine more often due to the bladder becoming less elastic.
  • Reduced life expectancy.
  • Avoidable hysterectomies.

Despite potential failings, it’s important not to put off cervical screening. It’s one of the best ways to protect yourself from cervical cancer for adult, sexually active females.

If you feel that you have experienced a worse outcome due to a delay in diagnosis and treatment or have undergone unnecessary treatment due to inaccurate results, please get in touch with our medical negligence experts on 0344 7768328. RHL Solicitors’s experienced solicitors act on a ‘No Win No Fee’ agreement for the victims of medical negligence, conducting thorough and rigorous clinical negligence investigations with the intention of establishing liability and recovering compensation. The expert reports we disclose to the Defendant during the claim process can also help to make a difference and to improve future care.