Computer screening for cervical cancer puts women at risk

Cervical cancer used to be the number one killer of women and now it is dropped to number 13. It is still a serious problem, but with yearly testing and medical developments women should not be dying of the disease. Some cervical cancer deaths are due to medical professionals relying on computers instead of human cytotechnologists to examine cells obtained from the cervix during a PAP test.

Diagnosis of cervical cancer

Cervical cancer is usually initially diagnosed by a PAP test. Women are advised to get a PAP test yearly in order to make sure they are healthy. The cells obtained during a PAP test are analyzed for abnormalities. A pelvic exam usually goes along with the PAP test and is also used to diagnose cervical cancer. When these tests go wrong and the results are misread, there are serious repercussions.

Some tests inadequately read

A recent case from England that was detailed in the Daily Mail illustrates just how dangerous misread PAP tests can be. The woman was told she was healthy after each of the three PAP tests she had done over an eight year period; however, when she had a hysterectomy because of a different condition it was discovered that she had advanced cervical cancer. She had been given the wrong results three different times. One of her tests came back as inadequate, meaning she should have been retested but never was. She was told the second test was negative, but it really had come back as borderline abnormal. The third test had detected some potential precancerous cells, but once again the woman was told it was normal.

The hospital claims that there are no longer screening problems in the hospital and that even this case should not raise any alarms about screening procedures. However, the case highlights a larger problem that is present in the United States as well. Many hospitals do not screen their own tests in house but instead send them out to other centers where computers analyze the cells. Actual human beings only look at the cells if the computer alerts them to a possible abnormality. Sometimes the patient's actual doctor never even reviews the tests, relying completely on the computer-generated results, which are rarely perfect.

Reach out for help

People who have had similar experiences to the woman whose tests were wrongly interpreted may have opportunities for financial recovery. A delayed cancer diagnosis is a serious mistake that puts lives in jeopardy. If medical professionals breach the appropriate standard of care they may be held responsible for their actions. A medical malpractice attorney can help those suffering with a misdiagnosis or other surgical errors to help determine what options exist for recovery for their losses.

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