Recent guidelines suggest that women age 21 and over should undergo a pap smear screening every three years. Pap smears are intended to help identify cell changes that could be indicative of the Human Papillomavirus Virus (HPV) and that could potentially lead to the development of cervical cancer. Pap smears also help to identify other troubling abnormalities.
Unfortunately, while pap smears are widely viewed as a reliable diagnostic aid that has contributed to significantly reducing cervical cancer deaths, they are not infallible. A number of problems can develop including inaccurate diagnoses leading to unnecessary treatment or even delayed treatment due to missed signs of cancer or other health problems.
If pap smear errors were made that affected diagnosis and/or treatment of medical problems for you or for a loved one, you have legal options. The doctor or the laboratory that was responsible for the error may be considered liable for medical malpractice and made to pay damages for losses including medical bills, time missed from work and even pain and suffering and emotional distress. An Atlanta medical malpractice lawyer can help you to determine if your pap smear error gives rise to a medical malpractice claim.
The Dangers of Pap Smear Errors
In June of 2011, an article on WebMD took a critical look at the accuracy of pap smears. According to the article, the effectiveness of pap smear screenings as a diagnostic aid can vary depending on the technique used to perform the testing. For example:
- The traditional pap smear technique dating back to the 1940’s involves using a wooden spatula to scrape a sample of cells from the face of the cervix and from the cervical canal. A thin layer of the cells is applied to a glass slide sprayed with a fixative and the remaining cells are discarded. With this pap smear technique, as many as 20-45 percent of pap smears resulted in a false negative, which means abnormal cells were not detected although they were present.
- The more widely used pap smear technique today is a liquid based pap smear (LBP). Used in 80 percent of pap smears today, the spatula or broom device used to collect cells is now immersed in a vial of liquid instead of the cells being scraped onto a glass slide. The liquid is then filtered to remove debris such as dead sperm and obscuring fluid and the remaining cells are placed on a slide to be read. These new LBPs are around 81 percent effective at identifying normal cells, as compared to the 71 percent rate of effectiveness of traditional techniques.
A failure to identify abnormal cells can have serious consequences if a woman does not get the treatment she needs to prevent the development of cancer. While cervical cancer can take a long time to develop, early detection is absolutely essential to ensure a chance at a cure.
Another issue that can develop after a pap smear is that a woman’s test may result in a false positive. A false positive is an incorrect diagnosis of abnormal cells, leading to more invasive testing and causing significant stress. The chance of a false positive ranges between one percent and ten percent depending upon which study is consulted, but if women undergo an annual pap smear from age 18 to age 78, the chance of having at least one false positive may be as high as 95 percent.
An Atlanta Medical Malpractice Lawyer Can Help After Pap Smear Errors
If a pap smear error compromised your health by resulting in unnecessary medical treatment or a delayed diagnosis, you may have a claim for medical malpractice. In order to make a successful claim, you would both have to show that negligence was involved in the error that was made and that the negligence had some actual impact on your health that caused you to suffer losses.
Negligence is determined by looking at what a reasonable medical professional would have done in the same situation. If no reasonable professional would have made the pap smear error that occurred, then the error may be considered an example of medical negligence leading to a malpractice claim. An Atlanta medical malpractice attorney can help you to prove negligence by assisting you in lining up expert witnesses and otherwise gathering the medical information you need.
Have You Been The Victim Of Medical Malpractice?
If you or a loved one has been injured due to a medical error you need to speak with a medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our office directly at 855.GA.INJURY or 404.991.5950 to schedule your free consultation.