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Did your doctor delay treatment by misreading a pap smear?

Once puberty starts, women have to undergo additional medical care and screenings that men do not require. Regular gynecological exams are important both to protect and monitor a woman’s fertility and to detect early signs of reproductive illnesses, like cervical cancer.

Pap smears involve taking a small tissue sample from the cervix to look for abnormal cells and other warning signs of sexually transmitted infections or cancer. Most women will have a doctor perform a pap smear every few years with increasing frequency as they age.

Unfortunately, despite undergoing the appropriate testing, you may not have learned about your medical condition in a timely manner because your doctor misread the sample. Why would a diagnostic mistake involving a pap smear ever occur?

Your doctor doesn’t actually process the sample

With the rare exceptions of self-employed physicians who keep their basic laboratory processing in-house, most doctors collect biological samples and then ship them elsewhere for analysis. The person looking at the sample will be a technician, meaning they don’t have any formal medical education like a doctor or a nurse.

The person screening the sample may lack the skill or focus necessary to spot abnormal cells. There could also be reporting or communication errors that interrupt the flow of information back to the doctor. It could also be possible that your doctor glances at the test results, which indicate some kind of abnormality, and then they dismiss the issue as minor.

Instead of ordering additional testing and calling to talk to you about the results, they tell you that there aren’t any real issues. They may not even advise you to come in for more frequent screenings to follow up on the abnormal results from your pap smear. The best practices for pap smears involve careful review and additional testing after any abnormal results. A doctor who fails to adhere to these standards may have engaged in medical malpractice.

Cervical cancer can spread quickly

Timely diagnosis is key to the success of treatment for cervical cancer. Although there are many kinds of cervical cancer, some of them are very aggressive and can spread quickly while producing very few, if any, noticeable symptoms.

You are completely dependent on your doctor to detect those signs of cervical cancer in time and help you connect with the testing and treatment you require. When your doctor misreads a pap smear, they could limit your treatment options and worsen your prognosis. Pursuing a medical malpractice claim over a diagnostic error related to pap smears could compensate you for the losses you suffered because of your doctor’s substandard care.