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Calls for improved cervical cancer safety nets
25 March 2014
On the fifth anniversary of the tragic death of Jade Goody, a Bristol woman who developed cervical cancer after a smear test was wrongly reported as normal has spoken of her own ordeal.
Mother-of-two Charlotte Brown, of Pucklechurch, endured invasive surgery and weeks of gruelling radiotherapy and chemotherapy after a screener did not report an abnormality that was present on a 2008 smear test.
In 2010, when she was just 34, she went to her GP with worrying symptoms and investigations revealed she had cervical cancer, which had also spread to her lymphnodes.
Although Charlotte beat the cancer the treatment caused her long-term health problems, including not being able to have more children. She also developed a permanent condition called lymphedema which causes her legs to swell and causes her mobility problems.
In 2009, a Harley Street consultant claimed that Jade Goody, who died of cervical cancer on 22 March that year, had been failed by an NHS hospital after staff failed to pick up on warning signs that something was wrong (The Telegraph).
The cancer ordeal and health problems have placed a huge emotional and physical strain on Charlotte and she had to give up her job as a support worker for the elderly and people with disabilities and illnesses.
If the abnormalities had been recognised by the screener at North Bristol NHS Trust who checked the test, the cells would have been removed with a routine procedure and Charlotte would have avoided very invasive surgery, debilitating treatment and the subsequent health problems.
Charlotte, now 37, who lives with her children Bill, 10 and Madeline, eight, commented: “The whole ordeal has had a huge physical and emotional impact on me. I go for regular smear tests and it’s distressing to know that abnormalities were there but these were not reported.
“I know that mistakes will always happen but making the screening system safer by ensuring tests are thoroughly double checked could help to capture more cases where errors have been made. This in turn could help to ensure more women at risk of cervical cancer get the treatment they urgently need.”
Angharad Hughes, a medical negligence solicitor at law firm JMW who is representing Charlotte, said that it was standard practice for ‘normal’ smear tests to be reviewed if the woman later goes on to be diagnosed with cancer. She commented: “In Charlotte's case this review correctly identified that there were abnormalities.
"The independent medical experts that we asked to look into the care provided to Charlotte agree that the screener who checked her slide in 2008 should have picked up on these.
“The impact of this error has been severe for Charlotte. Developing cancer has effectively turned her life upside down with emotional and financial consequences.
“The screening process does involve smear tests being double checked. However the second ‘rapid review’ check is done very quickly meaning there is greater room for error. As a safety net to pick up cases that were missed on the first check it is not ideal.”
Charlotte’s medical negligence case against the University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust is ongoing.
For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact Kelly Hindle on the details below:
D. 0161 828 1868
Note to Editors
JMW Solicitors LLP is a leading Manchester law firm and offers a broad range of legal services to both commercial and private clients.
JMW’s Clinical Negligence team is headed up by leading clinical negligence lawyer, Eddie Jones. https://www.jmw.co.uk/services-for-you/clinical-neglige...