The whole purpose of undergoing a pap smear on a regular basis is so your gynecologist can diagnose the very early signs of cervical cancer and intervene with preventative treatment. Unfortunately, the rate of pap smear misdiagnosis has risen dramatically in recent years due to new methods of pap smear testing and analysis. On this page, we will look at medical malpractice cases against OB/GYNs for pap smear misdiagnosis resulting in the development of full-blown cervical cancer.About Pap Smear Testing
A pap smear (or pap test) is a screening test that is designed to detect the early signs of cervical cancer in women. During a pap test, a small sample of tissue is scraped off from the cervix. The tissue sample is placed on a glass microscopy slide and sent out to a lab for examination and analysis.
At the lab, the cells from the cervical tissue sample are examined with the aim of identifying certain abnormal-looking cells. Abnormal cells can come in different levels and types. Some abnormal cells are considered “precancerous” which is the earliest sign of cervical cancer before it fully develops into cancer. Other abnormal cells may be classified as “carcinoma in situ” meaning that they have already developed into cervical cancer.Changes in Pap Smear Testing Have Decreased Accuracy
Traditionally pap smear testing was considered very accurate. The cellular abnormalities associated with early cervical cancer are often very identifiable in the tissue sample by an experienced technician. In recent years, however, two changes in the way that pap smear test samples are processed and analyzed have made them far less reliable and accurate.
The first change that has decreased the accuracy of pap smear testing is the widespread use of pre-screening computer technology in place of human analysis. In the past, each individual pap smear tissue slide was examined and analyzed by a human technician trained in the identification of cell abnormalities. Today, however, computer imaging scans are used to pre-screen pap smear slides and flag certain slides or certain areas in a sample for further analysis by a human technician. This pre-screening technology is often inaccurate and frequently fails to identify and flag abnormal and precancerous cells.
The other new development that has negatively impacted pap smear accuracy is the increasingly high volume of samples that technicians are expected to review and analyze. In an effort to increase efficiency and reduce costs lab technicians are generally analyzing twice the number of pap smear slides in a given time frame compared to 10 or 15 years ago. This has invariably led to less careful analysis resulting in more pap smear misdiagnosis cases.Consequences of Pap Smear Misdiagnosis
Pap smear misdiagnosis can have very serious health consequences. When cervical cancer is identified in its early stages it can be effectively treated before it fully develops and spreads. This is exactly why routine pap smear testing is considered so important.
When pap smear tests are misread and the early signs of cervical cancer are not diagnosed, the window of opportunity for early intervention treatment may be lost. Pap smear misdiagnosis can allow cervical cancer to go undiagnosed for years. This delay in the diagnosis of cervical cancer can have devastating results because it can allow cancer to progress and potentially spread to other areas of the body. In its later stages, cervical cancer is much more difficult to treat.Pap Smear Malpractice Lawsuits
Failure to properly examine and interpret a pap smear test resulting in a delay in the diagnosis of cervical cancer may be grounds for a medical malpractice claim against your OB/GYN. Cervical cancer takes years to develop and the early warning signs are identifiable well in advance. This means that if you had regular pap smear tests as advised by your doctor, and your first diagnosis of cervical cancer finds an advanced form of cervical cancer, it is very likely that your prior pap smear tests were misdiagnosed.
If a misdiagnosed pap smear test results in a delayed diagnosis and progression of cervical cancer, you may be entitled to financial compensation for your medical expenses, pain and suffering, and other losses.Verdicts & Settlements: Pap Smear Misdiagnosis
Below are verdicts and reported settlements from medical malpractice cases involving a pap smear misdiagnosis.
- $2,100,000 Settlement (2020 Georgia): A woman underwent a pap smear at a federally funded hospital. The results revealed cancerous cells but somehow the results were misdiagnosed as normal resulting in a 6-month delay in diagnosis. The woman died two years later after undergoing various treatments. Her family alleged negligence against the federally funded hospital. They claimed its staff deviated from the standard of care and misrepresented the Pap smear results. This case settled for $2,100,000.
- $450,000 Settlement (2017 New Jersey): A 24-year-old woman underwent three pap smears over two years. After 3rd test, hospital staff failed to inform her of abnormal results and the pathologist’s recommendation that she undergo a biopsy and colposcopy. The woman was ultimately diagnosed with Stage 3 cervical cancer and died one year later. Her family alleged the hospital staff failed to properly diagnose her cervical cancer and inform the woman of the abnormal Pap smear results. This case settled for $450,000.
- $1,250,000 Settlement (2017 New York): A 65-year-old woman underwent a Pap smear. The results were abnormal. However, the hospital staff failed to diagnose the woman with cancer. She died several years later. The woman’s family alleged negligence against the treating OB/GYN. They claimed she failed to follow up on the abnormal Pap smear and diagnose the woman with cervical cancer. This case settled for $1,250,000.
- $1,900,000 Settlement (2017 California): Defendant gynecologist’s assistant failed to inform patient of abnormal HPV and pap smear results. Several months later, she experienced lower abdominal cramps and heavy bleeding and was prescribed birth control pills. The woman’s symptoms persisted the following year but was told that her steroid use caused her bleeding and that she suffered from fibroids. She underwent fibroid surgery. During the procedure, the surgical team discovered Stage IV cervical cancer and she died eighteen months later. The woman’s family alleged negligence against the gynecologist. They claimed she failed to properly diagnose cervical cancer and order additional tests. This case settled for $1,900,000.
- $4,000,000 Verdict (2016 Florida): A 59-year-old woman underwent a Pap smear. The results were negative. Two years later, the woman suffered post-menopausal bleeding. She presented to her gynecologist. Her abdominal ultrasound and pelvic exam were normal. The woman was later diagnosed with metastasized uterine cancer and she died five months later. The woman’s family alleged negligence against a cytotechnologist for misinterpreting the pap smear. The jury awarded $4,000,000.
If you or a family member suffered due to a pap smear misdiagnosis, our medical malpractice lawyers may be able to help you. For a free consultation of your potential medical malpractice case, call our Maryland medical malpractice lawyers at (800) 553-8082 or fill out our brief online form.