Misreporting of Cervical Smears & Delayed Diagnosis of Cervical Cancer

All women in the UK from the ages of 25 to 65 are invited for routine cervical smear tests. For women aged 25 to 49, this invitation arrives every 3 years; for women aged 50 to 65 it arrives every 5. In 2019 - 2020, 4.63 million women were invited for a cervical smear but only 3.20 million accepted the invitation.

What is a Smear Test?

A smear test is a generally painless procedure used to check the heath of the cervix. The test involves collecting cervical cells using a swab (soft brush) which are then tested for the presence of the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). If this is negative, no further action is required. If this is positive, a cytology screen is carried out to check for the presence of abnormal cells. If these are identified, an invitation for a colposcopy is sent for further testing to be carried out and if necessary, treatment of the abnormal cells. If identified at an early stage, this usually involves a LLETZ or similar procedure to remove the affected cells completely.

Reporting Errors

It is therefore important that as many women as possible attend for their cervical smear. It is also important to be aware that whilst the vast majority of cervical smear results are correctly reported, smear tests are studied and reported by humans and humans can make mistakes.

Sometimes negative smears are reported as positive and positive smears are reported as negative. Where a negative smear is erroneously reported as positive, this can result in women undergoing further invasive investigations that were not necessary. Where a positive smear is reported as negative, the consequences can be devastating. This is because if abnormal cells are left untreated, they can continue to develop and can turn into cervical cancer. Once a patient has cervical cancer, they are likely to need radical treatment such as a hysterectomy, chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy with life altering results. In some cases, the cancer proves fatal.

Should I Be Worried?

The vast majority of cervical smears are correctly reported as negative and fortunately, mistakes are few and far between. However, any woman presenting with any of the following symptoms following a negative cervical smear is encouraged to contact their GP for advice:-.

  • Unusual bleeding between periods, after intercourse or after menopause;
  • Unusual or unpleasant discharge;
  • Pain during intercourse;
  • Lower back pain/pelvic pain.

At Lanyon Bowdler, we have extensive experience in representing women whose cervical smears have been misreported or whose diagnosis of cervical cancer has been delayed. If you have been affected in the same way, please do not hesitate to contact us.