Why Cervical Cancer Is Misdiagnosed
Cervical cancer is a form of cancer that begins in the cervix, the lowest part of the uterus. Like all other cancers, the disease is caused by the uncontrollable growth of abnormal cells. Cervical cancer is closely linked to HPV, or the human papillomavirus.
The cervical smear test, or Papanicolaou (Pap) smear, is one of the most common lab tests performed in America. Cheap and easy to perform, the test can effectively screen for cervical cancer, but only if the results are interpreted correctly.
More and more, medical professionals are relying on outsourcing their pathology duties, sending off their Pap smear tests to companies like LabCorp to be read. Physicians rely on these results to make their most important diagnostic decisions, but there is now significant evidence that many of these lab companies aren't doing their part.
Wisekal v. LabCorp
In the case of Wisekal v. LabCorp, the family of a 37-year-old mother who died of cervical cancer accused national laboratory chain LabCorp of negligence. As the family argued in court proceedings, LabCorp's technicians misread Darian Wisekal's Pap smear tests - not once, but twice. In both cases, LabCorp employees failed to note the growth of abnormal cells, despite clear evidence of the presence of cancer. Then Darian Wisekal died, surrounded by her family.
Wisekal's death was preventable. If read properly, and diagnosed correctly, Wisekal's cancer was entirely treatable. Most cases of cervical cancer are treatable, so long as the disease is diagnosed early in its progression. But left to fester, the disease can be lethal, accounting for over 4,000 deaths in American women every year.
Overworked Technicians Sure To Produce Errors
Why was Wisekal misdiagnosed twice by the technicians at LabCorp? Attorneys for the family argued that LabCorp worked its technicians too hard, expecting them to interpret hundreds of slides every day. This untenable expectation led to over-work and fatigue, which in turn led to serious mistakes. It was a matter of putting profits over people, of making as much money as possible.
How Labs Process Pap Smear Biopsies
These lab companies are in the business of making money, and the more slides they process, the more money they make. When your Pap smear biopsy is sent off to the laboratory, it's usually put in front of a cytotechnologist, rather than an actual doctor.
Cytotechnologists look through slides and flag abnormalities that should be reviewed by a pathologist, but at companies like LabCorp, cytotechnologists may be overworked, unable to perform their duties at the highest level. In one shift, a single cytotechnologist can be expected to look through 100 to 150 slides.
Under that kind of workload, it's almost inevitable that mistakes are made. Increasing cytotechnologist workload decreases accuracy, because fatigue comes into play. That increases the number of false-negatives, and ultimately, the misdiagnosis rate.
Family Awarded $21 Million In Pap Smear Trial
Thankfully, once these facts were presented in court, Darian Wisekal's lawsuit was a success. A nine-member jury serving for West Palm Beach Federal Court found that LabCorp had committed negligence in misinterpreting Wisekal's biopsies. The jury ordered LabCorp to pay the plaintiff's family a total of $21 million in financial compensation. It remains the largest jury decision against a member of the Pap smear industry for medical misdiagnosis.
Free Legal Consultation
Now, inspired by the life of Darian Wisekal, dozens of other cervical cancer patients and families have chosen to file lawsuits of their own, accusing lab companies across the country of medical negligence. This is an emerging area of litigation, one that hold significant benefits for patients and their loved ones. If you or a loved one were misdiagnosed, you may be entitled to pursue justice by filing a private civil lawsuit.
Our experienced attorneys are here to help. We have the extensive experience and resources necessary to pursue your case quickly and effectively. You can learn more about your legal options in a free consultation today. Our consultations are always confidential, and come at no charge and no obligation.
Worried about having to pay for a lawsuit? Our lawyers only work on a contingency-fee basis; that means you pay nothing until we secure compensation in your case. You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain, from reaching out for help.