Top 5 Reasons Cervical Cancer May Be Misdiagnosed

Pap tests are meant to identify precancerous cells in the cervix or changes in a woman’s cervix that may indicate susceptibility to developing cervical cancer. However, Pap tests, like many medical tests, are subject to human error and can cause misdiagnoses for various reasons.


Improperly collecting a sample can result in a misdiagnosis of cervical cancer, whether cancer is deemed present or not. A doctor may make this error if they did not collect enough cells or the sample was collected in a manner that could yield inaccurate results. An improper collection method may involve smearing the cells onto a slide instead of using the more modern method of placing them inside of a liquid base to properly preserve the sample.


In addition to potential errors in the administration of the exam, the laboratory that analyzes and collects the results can also make mistakes that cause a misdiagnosis. They may misinterpret the results or report the results incorrectly. When a lab improperly reports a false negative and person has abnormal cells in their cervix, those cells may be left untreated. This could ultimately lead to the patient developing cancer.


When a Pap test has been properly collected and properly analyzed, errors can still be made. This most often occurs when a doctor receives abnormal results but fails to tell the patient about those results in a timely manner or at all. All doctors must provide adequate and timely follow-ups for any abnormal results to ensure patients can receive the treatment they require as soon as possible.


A doctor may also cause a misdiagnosis if they do not take the time to learn about a patient’s risk factors for cervical cancer or take their lifestyle choices into consideration. A patient that smokes cigarettes, for example, may be at a higher risk for cervical cancer because cigarettes are a known carcinogen. Additionally, if the patient has a history of cervical cancer in her family, she is more likely to develop cervical cancer.


Primary care doctors and gynecologists should understand the importance of collecting this information and taking the extra steps needed to ensure any cervical cancer is diagnosed as soon as it is present. This may include performing Pap tests more often than the recommended standard of once every three years. When they fail to recommend these tests, this can lead to a delayed diagnosis of cervical cancer because there is simply no chance to identify the cancer and treat it properly and promptly. This is often the main reason for a misdiagnosis of cervical cancer.


Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable types of cancers. When it is misdiagnosed, particularly due to a human error, it can have a devastating effect on a patient’s life. It is important that patients understand they may be able to take legal action to recover the costs of additional medical bills or treatment resulting from the misdiagnosis of cervical cancer.