Anyone who’s had a smear test knows it is not an elegant experience. But this relatively simple test detects early signs of cervical cancer, often long before the disease has had a chance to do any lasting damage. There has been campaign recently by the NHS to encourage women to attend regular smear tests because they are so good at catching the early signs of the disease. The potential consequences that could arise outweigh the awkward few minutes the smear test involves.
There are of course some women who are not eligible for smear tests because they are too young, or for other very valid reasons. Even when a smear test comes back clear, women should continue to listen to their bodies and speak to their doctor if something is amiss.
Cervical cancer has many symptoms, commonly including bleeding in between periods or after sex, and pain during sex. If you have any of these symptoms whether or not your last smear was clear you should speak to your doctor straight away.
For the vast majority of people in this country the medical care provided is exceptional. However, like in any profession, there are occasions when the care can fall short. Sadly in medicine, mistakes can have life changing consequences, none more so than when it comes to catching cancer, and catching it early. Delays can make a big difference to the growth and extent of cancer and the treatment options available. Sadly, I see a number of women who have experienced avoidable delays in diagnosing gynaecological cancers, and for some the length of the delay has had life changing consequences.
For cervical and other gynaecological cancers, treatment of radiotherapy or chemotherapy can effect fertility both short and long term. For some, the treatment can damage their womb to the extent that they cannot carry children. For young women, the option to carry a child may be taken away from them, sometimes many years before they have even considered whether they want to start a family.
Modern medicine is ever evolving and there are more fertility treatment options available than ever. IVF, donor eggs, egg and embryo freezing and surrogacy are all options. However, accessibility to these treatments on the ever stretched NHS budget is far from guaranteed. Several are not funded by the NHS at all. Privately, the cost can be tens of thousands of pounds per baby.
Tragically there are a few women who have had a delay in diagnosis of cancer as a result of avoidable mistakes, and that delay has damaged their fertility. For these women, the private costs of fertility treatment can be included as part of a compensation claim. Given the very high costs of some of these options, I want to make sure that these women have the financial means to choose what is best for them.
The Eve Appeal is a fantastic charity offering support and information for anyone going through any gynaecological cancer. https://eveappeal.org.uk/
Olivia Boschat, Senior Solicitor at Bolt Burdon Kemp - https://www.boltburdonkemp.co.uk/team/oliviam/
tagged in Women's Health