Cervical and ovarian cancer misdiagnosis: how to make a successful claim

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Terry Regan

Director and Head of Medical and Clinical Negligence

Receiving any kind of cancer diagnosis is a stressful and emotional time for you and your loved ones. If your cancer has been misdiagnosed or your diagnosis was delayed, this can have serious repercussions on your health. Cancer Research UK statistics show that 99.8% of cervical cancer cases are preventable, and so are 11% of ovarian cancer cases.

With 3,197 new cases of cervical cancer each year, and 7,495 cases of ovarian cancer, it is vital that women receive the correct examinations and testing to avoid a delayed cancer diagnosis, which gives them a larger range of treatment options. This guide will detail common symptoms of both conditions, how they are misdiagnosed and how Wake Smith can help you make a cancer misdiagnosis claim.

What are the common symptoms of cervical and ovarian cancer?

Cervical cancer is the 14th most common cancer women face in the UK. The most common symptoms experienced are:

  • Unusual vaginal bleeding. This can occur during or after penetrative sex, bleeding in between regular periods, having heavier periods or bleeding after menopause
  • Changes to vaginal discharge
  • Pain during penetrative sex
  • Pain in the lower back, pelvic area or lower stomach

Ovarian cancer is thought to have a number of causes, including hereditary links. This is no guarantee that you will develop ovarian cancer, but is worth being aware of. It is the 6th most common cancer that women in the UK experience. It has frequent symptoms, which include:

  • A swollen belly or feeling bloated
  • An urgent need to pass urine or urinating more often than usual
  • Pain and soreness in the pelvic area or stomach
  • A lack of appetite or feeling full after eating

Other symptoms include indigestion, back pain, feeling lethargic, losing weight unintentionally, constipation or diarrhoea and vaginal bleeding after menopause.

What are cervical cancer and ovarian cancer often misdiagnosed as?

Cancer misdiagnosis is potentially life-threatening for patients. Both cervical and ovarian cancer share symptoms with other gynaecological conditions. Missing or misinterpreting a symptom can prevent early diagnosis, which gives a cancer patient their best chance and the largest range of treatment options.

Cervical cancer in particular shares symptoms with endometriosis and fibroids and can be misdiagnosed as these conditions. Cervical cancer symptoms can also be mistaken for heavy periods.

Ovarian cancer can be confused with menopause, as it is more likely to develop in women over the age of 45. Medical professionals can also confuse symptoms with ovarian cysts and irritable bowel syndrome. If you have been misdiagnosed with any of these conditions, you may be able to make a misdiagnosis claim. It is important to get in touch with a medical negligence solicitor as soon as possible to discuss your case.

Can cervical and ovarian cancer be mistaken for each other?

Cervical and ovarian cancer occur in different parts of the female reproductive system. Cervical cancer can be found in the cervix and the lower part of the uterus. Ovarian cancer takes hold in the fallopian tubes and in the ovaries.

Despite this, they share some common symptoms which can lead a medical professional to diagnose the wrong type of cancer. Both cause irregular vaginal bleeding and pain in the pelvic area.

Even if cancer is suspected, any GP or medical professional should refer you for further examinations and tests to provide an accurate diagnosis. If you have either cervical or ovarian cancer and are wrongly diagnosed with the other, you may be able to make a claim.

What consequences can misdiagnosed cervical or ovarian cancer have?

Misdiagnosis or late diagnosis can be life-threatening for the patient. With Cancer Research UK reporting 853 deaths between 2017 and 2019 from cervical cancer and 4,142 deaths from ovarian cancer, it is vital to catch both as soon as possible.

Even when not fatal, misdiagnosis can allow the cancer to spread to other areas in the body or progress to a later stage. In some cases, this can lead to partial or full hysterectomies that could have been avoided. If this happens, you could seek compensation with either a delayed diagnosis claim or a medical negligence claim.

To discuss your potential claim during a consultation, you can get in touch with our medical negligence solicitors here.

How is cervical and ovarian cancer misdiagnosed?

In cervical cancer, the most common errors in diagnosis are associated with cervical screening tests, more familiarly known as a Pap smear. The test can identify cancer cells and is conducted every 1 to 3 years for women over the age of 25. Errors can occur during the collection of cells, how they are stored and while the lab is processing them.

GPs and specialists can also be at fault if they fail to investigate abnormal cells or incorrectly interpret test results. It is also clinical negligence if they do not order further tests when required, such as HPV typing or a colposcopy.

In the case of ovarian cancer, it is harder to diagnose if your doctor does not understand the early symptoms or order tests to investigate further. This is because there is currently no reliable screening method for ovarian cancer. However, once symptoms occur, blood tests can be ordered to check for a protein that is released by ovarian cancer cells.

How can I make a claim for cervical or ovarian cancer misdiagnosis?

It is always best to seek advice from a solicitor if you intend to make a compensation claim. They can determine if your ovarian or cervical cancer misdiagnosis claim is likely to be successful and advise on the evidence you need to gather.

Gathering evidence is essential to any cervical or ovarian cancer misdiagnosis claim. This will include test results, medical notes and all lines of communication. Your solicitor will be able to obtain details. If the misdiagnosis resulted in wrongful death, you could make a claim if you are a close relative of the deceased.

How Wake Smith can help

Getting in touch with Wake Smith will provide you with a team of experienced medical negligence solicitors. We have worked on claims for medical negligence from GPs to private healthcare services. We can help assess your case, advise you on the evidence you need to gather and put your cancer misdiagnosis claim forwards. Contact us today for a free consultation to discuss your misdiagnosed cancer compensation claim.

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About the author

Director and Head of Medical and Clinical Negligence

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