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Written by Sita Soni

Judgment has been entered for a young mother, Emma* who developed cervical cancer when a hospital failed to follow up her abnormal smear and biopsy results.

The hospital have apologised to our client and her family for the failure to appropriately treat abnormal cervical cells, which developed into cancer requiring chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

Emma’s cervical cancer claim

Emma was referred by her GP to the defendant hospital after a routine smear test showed borderline changes. She had a colposcopy (an outpatient clinic examination of the cervix) which showed minor abnormalities and attended a further colposcopy, smear test and biopsies were carried out. Emma was told that she would only be contacted for treatment if the biopsy results gave any cause for concern.

When the results of the tests were reported, they showed mild dyskaryosis and grade 1 CIN. Cervical intra-epithelial neoplasia (CIN) is not cancer but is often described as ‘pre-cancerous change’ in the squamous cells of the cervix. Grade 1 CIN indicates the lowest level of severity. CIN doesn’t always need treatment but must be followed up. If treatment is required it is usually simple and very successful.

The hospital did not appropriately follow up with Emma following the biopsy despite the results indicating a need for treatment. Emma was left unaware that she needed treatment to avoid developing cervical cancer. Having heard nothing more from the hospital, Emma assumed that her results were normal. Two years later she experienced abnormal vaginal bleeding. The cause of her bleeding was investigated and she was found to have stage 2b node-positive squamous cell carcinoma. The hospital’s failure to recall Emma and the resulting delay in treatment for CIN meant that she now had a malignant cancer which had spread to the lymph nodes and she needed to have chemo-radiotherapy.

The chemo-radiotherapy was successful and Emma is currently in remission. Emma however experiences permanent and life changing side effects which include but not limited to pain, fatigue and aching, and a bowel and bladder impairment. As a result of the avoidable cancer diagnosis and treatment, Emma also experiences anxiety and low mood.

Following the cervical cancer claim being pursued, the defendant hospital admitted that if Emma had been offered treatment when her CIN was diagnosed, she probably would not have gone on to develop cervical cancer, and would not have needed chemotherapy or radiotherapy. The admission of liability has been formally acknowledged with Judgment being entered.

What Emma’s says

“When I found out that my original biopsy results had shown CIN but were not disclosed nor followed up or treated by the hospital, I decided to contact Boyes Turner to obtain more advice. I decided to pursue the claim firstly to gain insight into what had gone wrong and to get answers. When I received the admission of liability and the apology I felt a wide range of emotions, mainly I felt relief that they had admitted their liability and recognised that mistakes were made… Nothing will ever change what happened but at least they have acknowledged what went wrong...”

What happens next

Boyes Turner’s specialist medical negligence lawyers are now carrying out the necessary investigations to value Emma’s claim. This includes consideration of loss of earnings as Emma is working at a reduced capacity as a result of cancer related physical difficulties, help at home for domestic assistance and childcare, and potential medical treatment and therapy to help alleviate some of the ongoing difficulties Emma experiences.

In the meantime, the medical negligence team at Boyes Turner obtained an interim payment from the defendant hospital to reduce Emma’s financial difficulties whilst the valuation is ongoing.

Support for cervical cancer patients and survivors

Anyone that’s fighting an illness like cancer, or is a cancer survivor needs support.

Emma says:

“throughout my cancer journey, I have been extremely lucky to have fantastic support from all my family and friends. They continue to support me now when I find things too difficult or tiring. I would recommend that people reach out to the main cancer charity like Macmillan or cervical cancer charity Jo’s Trust who are brilliant. I found Jo's Trust website to be a great resource of information and advice. I would also recommend seeking out local cancer support groups, I would have been lost without the care and support from the one in my local area. My solicitor at Boyes Turner has also been with me every step of the way offering advice and support for both my claim and for when things have just felt too difficult. In regards to my claim, Sita Soni has constantly kept me 'in the loop' and is always just an email or phone call away.”