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Cervical cancer in woman, aged 23, went undiagnosed after GP failed in duty of care

A GP admitted she had failed in a duty of care after a 23-year-old woman’s cervical cancer went undiagnosed.

Posted on 21 June 2023

The patient, who we have called Anna, brought a claim against her GP after she discovered two years later that she had cancer. However by this time the disease was much more advanced and meant extensive surgery.

Anna first went to her GP when she was concerned about some unusual bleeding she was experiencing between her periods and after having sex. Her GP carried out a smear test.

However, as Anna was only 23 at the time she was too young to be part of the national cervical cancer screening programme which starts when a woman is 25.

As a result, Anna’s cervical smear sample was destroyed without being looked at. Somewhat surprisingly, this is in line with guidelines. However, Anna’s GP had a responsibility to tell her the smear test had not been analysed, but didn’t.

Distressingly, if the sample had been analysed it would have shown early cancer cell changes and allowed Anna to undergo non-invasive and entirely curative treatment.

Instead, Anna’s cervical cancer was only diagnosed when she was 25 and could be part of the national screening programme. As a result of this delay, the cancer was more advanced and Anna had to undergo more extensive surgery which has impacted her day to day life.

Anna instructed Leigh Day clinical negligence partner Kirsten Wall and Anna’s GP admitted she had failed in the duty of care she owed to Anna.

The claim was settled for a five-figure sum.

Kirsten Wall said:

“Anna was aware from celebrities such as Jade Goody that, although rare, cervical cancer can affect young women and felt she was doing the sensible thing by seeking the advice of her GP. As a result of the GP’s failings, Anna suffered needlessly and had her concerns been followed through, her cervical cancer would have been discovered much sooner and the treatment would have been much less invasive.

“I would encourage all women to trust their instincts and follow up on any medical concerns they have.”

Kirsten Wall
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Kirsten Wall

Kirsten specialises exclusively in medical negligence claims

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