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Problems with Pap Smears are Leading to Missed Cervical Cancer Diagnoses

There has been a significant amount of progress made in the area of cervical cancer. Screening processes such as pap smears along with the HPV vaccine have contributed to a sharp decline in the morbidity and mortality of a disease that used to cause major problems for women everywhere. Unfortunately, the screening process related to cervical cancer may not be as effective as people once thought.

A study was recently published in Cancer that shared scientific evidence that the mortality rate of cervical cancer may be higher than people think. The journal stated that the old statistics did not include women who died of cervical cancer after having their cervix removed during a hysterectomy. This means that women are dying at a higher rate than the prior estimates led people to believe. How could this be? 

Errors in Performing and Reading Pap Smears

Women everywhere should have pap smears performed routinely to screen for cervical cancer; however, women should also make sure that these pap smears are performed and read correctly. Some common mistakes include:

Issues in the Field of View

One of the problems with the pap smear process could be related to sampling issues. When a pap smear is performed, only a few cells are scraped off of the cervix. If the section that is scraped does not contain the cancerous cells, the cervical cancer could remain undiagnosed. It is important that physicians take cells from various parts of the cervix for appropriate sampling purposes.

Problems with Machine Reading

While technological advancement has led to new imaging and techniques and treatment options, it also poses problems. Physicians used to read their own pap smear slides; however, new technology has come out that was designed to increase the rate at which physicians read these slides. These machines present only a few of the cells that were sampled in the pap smear. If these cells don't contain an appropriate sample, it could lead to a missed diagnosis.

Overworked Lab Technicians

It is in the physician's best interest to see as many patients per day as possible for revenue purposes; however, this also means a high number of pap smears that the lab technicians have to read. If the lab is overworked, it is possible they could prepare the slides incorrectly that leads to medical errors. It is important that the slides are prepared correctly for an accurate read.

All of these mistakes could lead to missed diagnosis and wrongful deaths due to cervical cancer. Any patient who believes that they may have been the victim of one of these errors should contact an experienced legal attorney for assistance. No woman should have to deal with cancer as a result of a missed diagnosis. It is their right to fight for legal compensation to help cover medical costs and lost income.

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