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Cervical Cancer Misdiagnosis – Too Little, Too Late

It has taken Vicky Phelan’s successful High Court action against a US based clinical laboratory subcontracted by CervicalCheck, for CervicalCheck failures to come to light this week.

On Wednesday, 25 April 2018 Vicky Phelan (43) won her High Court case and was awarded €2.5 million.

Source: RTÉ https://www.rte.ie/news/health/2018/0430/959148-cervicalcheck-smear-tests/

Speaking to RTÉ Radio One’s Ray D’Arcy Show, she explains how she went for a routine smear test back in 2011, and was told her results came back normal. While a smear test does not diagnose cervical cancer, an abnormal result would lead to further examinations to test the patient for cancer.

Phelan’s missed results first came to light in 2014 following an audit of all smear tests. Separately, the same year, she underwent a second smear test which revealed she had cervical cancer.

Vicky Phelan is a mother of two who was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2014 on foot of a routine cervical smear test and further tests.  Ms Phelan underwent her regular cervical smear test in 2011, which incorrectly tested clear.  It was only some three years later, when Ms Phelan again returned for a cervical smear test that she was diagnosed with cervical cancer and given the horrific news that she only had six to twelve months to live.

It was also in 2014, that a qualitative review was done on Ms Phelan’s 2011 smear test result which showed the abnormalities which was missed three years prior.  Ms Phelan’s doctors were informed of this grave mistake in 2016 and Ms Phelan herself was not informed until 2017, some three years after the review.  This week the Head of the National Cancer Control Programme Dr Jerome Coffey has publicly said that the decision on whether doctors should tell their patients the result of a review was “between the physician and the patient”.

Speaking to RTÉ Radio One’s Ray D’Arcy Show, she explains how she went for a routine smear test back in 2011, and was told her results came back normal. While a smear test does not diagnose cervical cancer, an abnormal result would lead to further examinations to test the patient for cancer.

Phelan’s missed results first came to light in 2014 following an audit of all smear tests. Separately, the same year, she underwent a second smear test which revealed she had cervical cancer.

Her doctor wasn’t informed of this diagnosis until 2016, and she herself wasn’t informed until a further year had passed. In January of this year, she was given between six and 12 months to live.

€700,000 worth of the money will be placed in a trust fund for her two children, aged 12 and seven. Phelan said that the rest of the money gives her options for treatment. “There’s still no cure for my cancer. Unfortunately, I don’t see the day, unless a breakthrough comes in the next couple of years, where I’m going to be able to say I’m cured,” she said.
I think I’m going to have to live with this cancer for the rest of my life. So, it’s buying me extra time, extra time with my family. It’s something I’m always going to have to have treatment for and it’s expensive.

It should be noted that if cervical cancer is caught in the early stages, the five-year survival rate is thankfully high at an estimated 91%, however the longer cervical cancer goes untreated and inevitably spreads, the five-year survival rate quickly diminishes.

Minister for Health Simon Harris said on Wednesday this week, that CervicalCheck will be writing to the doctors of further women who have been given incorrect cervical smear results to ensure that they have informed their patients that they were incorrectly given the all clear and may have had their cervical cancer diagnosis missed.

Vicky Phelan’s High Court action shines a light on the systemic failures of CervicalCheck and the fact that there are further women in Ireland who remain neglected by their treating doctors to be advised of their incorrect cervical smear test results.

Coleman Legal Partners has extensive experience and knowledge in medical negligence and medical misdiagnosis cases.  If you have concerns that you may have been misdiagnosed, please contact the office on 01 5313800 to arrange a consultation with one of our experienced medical negligence solicitors.


RELATED ARTICLES

RTÉ 30/04/2018 – Concern raised over outsourcing smear testing in 2008 TheJournal.ie 26/04/2018 – ‘We can’t just presume they have’: Doctors instructed to tell women if they have received false smear test results https://www.cancer.net/cancer-types/cervical-cancer/statistics https://www.cancer.ie/cancer-information/cervical-cancer/symptoms-and-diagnosis#sthash.XgrFJ75x.dpbs https://www.cancer.net/cancer-types/cervical-cancer/statistics http://www.mariekeating.ie/cancer-information/cervical-cancer/
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