Cervical cancer is the most common type of cancer affecting women under the age of 35 in the UK. This week is Cervical Cancer Prevention Week.

What is cervical cancer?

Cervical cancer occurs when abnormal, pre-cancerous cells of the cervix (the entrance to the womb at the top of the vagina) start multiplying in an uncontrolled, haphazard way. In the pre-cancerous stage, abnormal cells cannot spread beyond the cervix, but once the disease progresses to cancer, it can move to other parts of the body.

In 2015, over 3,100 women were diagnosed with cervical cancer. Approximately 870 females die of the disease per year.

Girls aged 12-13 are now routinely offered vaccination against the very common HPV (human papilloma group of viruses), and it is known that this vaccine can prevent more than 70% of cervical cancers. You can read more about cervical cancer on the Macmillan Cancer Support website.

Prevention

In an attempt to detect pre-cancerous changes early, the Cervical Screening Programme repeatedly invites women between the ages of 25 and 64 to have a 'smear test'. This test takes a sample of cells from the cervix so that they may be looked at under a microscope and assessed. More than 9 out of every 10 women having a smear test will have no abnormality detected (a 'negative' result). Over the next couple of years, the health system in England is moving towards testing for HPV first.

The Cervical Cancer Prevention Week, development of a vaccination, and screening prevention programmes are all great news for patients.

Symptoms

In early cervical cancer, there may be no symptoms. Women who do have symptoms typically report abnormal vaginal bleeding such as bleeding during or after sexual intercourse, 'extra' bleeding between their normal menstrual periods, or bleeding after the menopause. Additionally, odd-smelling vaginal discharge, pain in the pelvis, and pain during sex can also be signs of cervical cancer. However, it is important to note that there are other, non-cancerous causes of these symptoms too.

Diagnosis and treatment

When there is a concern that a patient's symptoms may be caused by cancer, a referral is made via a 'two-week wait' pathway so that they are seen and assessed promptly.

Treatment of cervical cancer is tailored to each woman and will depend on a number of factors; including the type of cervical cancer she has been diagnosed with, the stage or extent of the cancer, and her general health. Surgery, radiotherapy, and/or chemotherapy may be necessary. Because the cervix is part of the reproductive system, and because of the nature of the treatment delivered, there may be a lasting impact on fertility.

When things go wrong

We see nurses and doctors devoted to providing the best possible care to their patients and our clients, but problems with services can intervene. Unfortunately, sometimes concerning symptoms are missed, the two-week wait pathway is not followed, or scans are interpreted incorrectly. Our specialists at Anthony Collins Solicitors have helped patients who have experienced these problems, because of an administrative error or over-stretched services, and has led to a delay in their diagnosis and/or starting treatment.

Sadly, when things do go wrong, the impact on a patient can be life-changing and far-reaching. We have extensive experience helping patients secure compensation, which can help to get their lives back on track or provide financial security for their family. We also obtain formal apologies for failures and reassurances changes have been made to prevent errors affecting other patients in the future.

Further information

If you, or someone you know, has concerns regarding the diagnosis and treatment of cervical cancer, then please contact Mohammad Abdullah, Solicitor, or Stephanie Moustache, nurse and medico-legal advisor. We are happy to speak to you on an initial free, no obligation basis. We are specialists in clinical negligence claims.

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