Family Frustrated After GP Blamed Symptoms of Cervical Cancer On The Menopause

Medical Law Experts Say Family Deserve An Apology For Their Loss


By Helen MacGregor

The husband of a woman who died from cervical cancer has spoken of his ongoing heartache and anger that he has never received an apology, after her GP delayed in making the diagnosis, instead blaming her ‘red flag’ symptoms on the menopause.

Cheryl Humpage first sought medical help complaining of nausea, unusual bleeding and fever in February 2008, but it wasn’t until March 2009 that the ‘huge’ tumours on her cervix and ovaries were found, and the mum-of-three was forced to endure an aggressive course of chemotherapy to try and fight her condition.

But the cancer had spread too far, and in June 2010 the 55-year-old died, leaving behind her husband Peter, three children and three grandchildren.

An investigation carried out by medical law experts Irwin Mitchell on behalf of her devastated family, from Pelsall in Walsall, later revealed that Cheryl’s GP, Dr Martin Francis Crowther at St Peter’s Surgery, Walsall, missed numerous opportunities to further investigate, diagnose and treat the cancer.

Lindsay Tomlinson from Irwin Mitchell’s Birmingham office represented the Humpages in their battle for answers about whether more could have been done to save Cheryl and prevent her suffering.

She said: “There are widely accepted guidelines in place which stipulate that anyone displaying the symptoms that Cheryl had should be urgently referred to a specialist for further investigation.

“And yet, despite such clear instruction issued by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), it took four visits and more than a year until she was seen by a specialist at Walsall Manor Hospital and the diagnosis finally made.”

Instead, Cheryl’s GP blamed her symptoms on the menopause and prescribed HRT which she took for several months, during which time the cancer continued to spread through her body.

Lindsay Tomlinson continued: “This is a tragic case that has left a family devastated by the loss of a wife, mother and grandmother.

“During our investigations, an independent medical expert found that Cheryl’s GP should have recognised her symptoms as typical of those experienced by cervical cancer sufferers.

“And yet no pelvic examination was made, she was not referred to a gynaecologist and no advice was given advising her to return for further medical attention should the bleeding continue.

“Had she been referred earlier, she would have avoided such a long period of pain and suffering without a diagnosis and our expert was of the opinion that on balance she would have lived for longer and had more time with her family.”

Peter, 56, from Pelsall in Walsall said: “Cheryl was very concerned about her symptoms but thought she was in safe hands with her GP and trusted that if he wasn’t concerned, she didn’t need to be.

“She was a great mum and grandmother and very family orientated, we’re all absolutely heartbroken that she’s no longer with us.

“It’s very hard not to be angry about what happened. Cheryl should not have had to suffer like she did and if the cancer had been diagnosed earlier we believe we could have had longer with her.

“We just hope that what happened to Cheryl acts as a reminder to all GPs about the importance of a quick diagnosis of cervical cancer.

“It is however, still difficult to come to terms with our loss because we have never had any sort of apology or admission of responsibility to help us draw a line under everything that happened. Until then I’m not sure that we can ever truly move forward.” 

The family have now received an undisclosed sum from the GP’s insurers for their loss.

Lindsay Tomlinson at Irwin Mitchell added: “It is not possible to say that Cheryl would still be here now if the cancer had been picked up when she first began showing symptoms but our expert evidence found her pain and suffering would have been greatly reduced and on balance she would have had longer to live with earlier diagnosis and treatment.

“It was incredibly hard for all her family to see her deteriorate so quickly and not able to do anything to help and the settlement awarded reflects that, as well as the family’s loss of earnings as Cheryl still worked.

“However this case was never about the money and Cheryl’s loved ones remain desperate to see proof that any lessons that could be learnt have been acted on and would hugely appreciate an apology for the suffering Cheryl went through – they at least deserve that.”

Timeline Of Events:

  • 15 Feb 2008 – Cheryl first visited Dr Crowther complaining of fever, vomiting and aching. He gave her painkillers and suggested it was probably the menopause.
  • 22 Feb 2008 – She returned to her GP as the symptoms had not improved. He offered a course of Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) but she did not want it.
  • 25 Sept 2008 – Cheryl had been experiencing having heavy bleeding and clots so went back to see Dr Crowther. He prescribed HRT.
  • 23 February 2009 – She returned to the surgery again as symptoms had still not improved. Dr Crowther referred her for a scan at Walsall Manor Hospital.
  • 5 March 2009 – Cheryl had an ultrasound which highlighted a large tumour on her ovary. She was admitted to City hospital as an emergency.
  • 19 April 2009 – The primary cancer is found to be on Cheryl’s cervix, she is referred for chemotherapy.
  • 26 July 2010 – Cheryl dies aged 55.

Read more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise relating to Medical Negligence Cancer Claims and GP Negligence Claims.