Mother Vows To Continue Campaign For Better Cervical Cancer Diagnosis

Medical Lawyers Secure Settlement For Family Of 23-Year-Old Cancer Victim

11.09.2013

By Helen MacGregor

The distraught mum of a young cervical cancer victim, who tragically died after avoidable delays in her diagnosis, has vowed to continue her campaign to ensure other young women are given the chance to be tested.

Mercedes Curnow was just 23 when she died on 14th December 2011, at her home in Crowlas, near Penzance in Cornwall. Her GP has since admitted that they should have referred her to a specialist gynaecologist in January 2010 for a smear test, but instead the cancerous tumour was only found in April that year.

Mercedes’ mum, Sandra Cousins, spent 18 months nursing her and watching helplessly as the disease spread. One year after her daughter’s death she delivered a petition to Downing Street with more than 112,000 signatures calling on the NHS to reintroduce cervical cancer smear testing for women from the age of 20 in England, as is the case in Wales and Scotland.

The family instructed specialist medical lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to help in their battle for justice and to help provide answers about what happened to their daughter. The law firm has now secured a £45,000 settlement from Mercedes’ GP at the Marazion Surgery in Cornwall which will help cover the extensive care provided by her mother for nearly two years up to her death.

Sandra says the settlement means that she can renew her calls for greater action to improve cervical cancer diagnosis for women under 25.

An investigation by Irwin Mitchell into Mercedes' treatment revealed that back in 2009, when Mercedes was 20-years-old, she began suffering from heavy bleeding, blood clots and severe abdominal pain. Her family pleaded with doctors to carry out a smear test, but she was instead put on the contraceptive pill for 12 months to ease her heavy periods.

In January 2010 it was recorded in her notes that a cervical smear test may be needed – but it was not until April that she was finally diagnosed with cervical cancer. By this time the tumour was so large she required major surgery and multiple courses of chemotherapy.

Despite this, she lost her battle with the cancer in December 2011 after seeing her weight drop to below six stone and she had become unable to walk alone.

Mercedes’ mother, Sandra Cousins, said: “Even though Mercedes was suffering so much in her final year, she was determined to make a difference through extensive campaigning to change attitudes to cervical cancer.

“I strongly believe that had my daughter been given the option of a smear test when she first saw her GP, she would still be here today. Instead, our pleas for help fell on deaf ears, and despite even acknowledging that a smear test may be appropriate in January, it was four months later that the test was actually carried out.”

“We were devastated by her death but it drove us on to continue the campaign on her behalf. Now that we have received a settlement from the trust, we will continue our campaign with a renewed vigour. We cannot simply stand by whilst young women like our daughter are potentially being put at risk.”

Julie Lewis, a Partner and expert medical lawyer at Irwin Mitchell representing the family, said: “This case was never about the money, it was about ensuring that lessons were learned and that the circumstances were properly investigated so that the case can act as a catalyst for change. The family have campaigned tirelessly on the issue and will continue to press for improvements in cervical cancer diagnosis.

“Although cervical cancer is rare in young women, this is not an isolated case and we have seen other examples of the disease not being spotted early enough by doctors.

“What links the cases is that the warning symptoms were all present but doctors were seemingly making a judgment that because of their age, it couldn’t possibly be cervical cancer. Mercedes’ tragic story shows that delays in diagnosis can be crucial so we are asking all GPs to carefully check the symptoms of people suffering with similar problems regardless of age.”

If you have suffered due to a delayed cervical cancer diagnosis or misdiagnosed cervical cancer, our medical negligence lawyers could help you claim compensation. Call 0808 163 4557 for a free initial consultation or see our Cancer Misdiagnosis Claims page for more details.