January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month. One of the reasons that there is a month devoted to this female-only form of cancer is that it often goes undiagnosed for a significant amount of time.
The longer it takes someone to get a diagnosis of cervical cancer, the harder it will be for them to recover. Cervical cancer screenings are often part of routine visits with a gynecologist. Both the visual examination and a pap smear help a gynecologist detect early warning signs of cervical cancer, like abnormal cells.
Unfortunately, many women experience a significant delay in diagnosis when they have cervical cancer. That delay could mean that they must undergo more aggressive treatment or that their cancer eventually proved fatal.
How often do those with cervical cancer have diagnostic delays?
It is sadly more common than not for a woman with cervical cancer to have a delay in diagnosis so extreme that the cancer has already started to metastasize. In a study looking at how quickly doctors diagnose cervical cancer, researchers found that 86.3% of the women diagnosed with this kind of cancer suffered from a delayed diagnosis. Their cancer had already reached an advanced stage.
By the time these women come to their doctors reporting symptoms like discomfort or unusual discharge, the cancer has already reached a dangerous point. Doctors should be more proactive about screening for cervical cancer, especially in older women and those who have contracted certain sexually transmitted infections previously in life. HPV, for example, has a strong correlation with increased risk for certain kinds of cervical cancer later in life.
Doctors should also listen when women report issues like discomfort during sexual intimacy or changes in the smell or discharge from their vaginas.
Diagnostic delays are a deadly form of medical malpractice
Doctors have to monitor their patients and ordered treatment for them. Patients cannot start chemotherapy on their own or even see a specialist without a recommendation. If your doctor has ignored your self-reported symptoms or has failed to properly screen you despite the warning signs you have increased risk of cervical cancer, their failure to diagnose you might constitute medical malpractice.
Making a failure to diagnose claim against the doctor who didn’t catch your cancer in time can provide you with financial compensation while you undergo treatment and create professional consequences for the doctor who did not provide adequate care and diagnostic support.