Medical Negligence Experts Join Woman Who Underwent Hysterectomy, Chemotherapy, Radiotherapy And Brachytherapy In Calling For Lessons To Be Learned
A woman who developed cervical cancer after her smear test was incorrectly classed as clear has spoken of her determination to look to the future after lawyers secured her a settlement.
Shona Clark, aged 45, was diagnosed with the disease three years after undergoing a routine smear test. The result was recorded as negative but should have highlighted borderlines changes.
Following her diagnosis, Shona, of Ashington, Northumberland, underwent a hysterectomy as well as chemotherapy, radiotherapy and brachytherapy - where radiation is administered directly next to the tumour.
Shona asks medical negligence to investigate care
She instructed expert medical negligence lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate. Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which was responsible for analysing Shona’s test result, admitted a breach of duty and apologised for the shortcomings in her care.
Shona has now joined her legal team in calling for lessons to be learned. It comes after Irwin Mitchell secured Shona an undisclosed settlement to help fund the specialist ongoing care and support she needs following her treatment.
Expert Opinion“The last few years and coming to terms with her cancer and treatment has been incredibly distressing for not only Shona but all her family.
“Understandably Shona had a number of concerns about her diagnosis especially after been told her screening result was clear. Nothing can make up for what’s she’s gone through, but we’re pleased that we’ve been able to secure the answers Shona deserved. This settlement will now ensure Shona can continue her recovery and access the specialist support she needs to try and look to the future the best she can.
“However, through our work we sadly see the impact that cancer can have. While we urge the Trust to learn lessons from this case, it’s also vital that people continue to participate in screening programmes or seek medical advice as soon as possible if they’re concerned they may have cancer. Early detection and treatment is key to beating the disease.” Rebecca Pearey
Cervical Cancer: Shona Clark's story
Shona, who is married to Ken, had previously had an abnormal smear result in 1998. She attended a routine four-yearly screening appointment in 2015. The account manager was told that the result was clear but it should have highlighted borderline changes.
By early 2018 her periods had changed and her bleeding had become heavier.
Shona sought medical advice for her symptoms. During a gynaecology appointment in August 2018 doctors suspected she may have cervical cancer.
After her diagnosis Shona underwent cancer treatment. The treatment didn’t remove her tumour so she underwent surgery in May 2019.
Newcastle Hospital Trust admits failings
Following legal submission by Irwin Mitchell Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust admitted had Shona’s 2015 result been accurately reported as showing borderline changes, tests to check for HPV (human papillomavirus) would have been carried out. If this was positive Shona would have been referred to doctors.
If Shona’s smear test result hadn’t been incorrectly classed as negative, on the balance of probabilities, she wouldn’t have developed cervical cancer and she wouldn’t have had to undergo cancer treatment, the Trust acknowledged.
Ashington woman Shona still affected by treatment symptoms more than four years on
More than four years on Shona, still struggles to work part-time as an account manager because of her ongoing symptoms connected to her treatment. Shona, who has been supported by the cancer charity, Maggies, is in remission but she has regular hospital check-ups to monitor whether the cancer has returned.
Shona said: “Nothing can ever prepare you for the words ‘you have cancer’. When my cycle changed in 2018 and I started with bad headaches, I knew something wasn’t right but I didn’t expect it to be cancer because of the my previous smear test result. I was falsely reassured by that result.
“Trying to come to terms with my diagnosis, treatment and my future was a whirlwind of emotions. One of the hardest things was the gruelling treatment I had. I had chemotherapy for 11 hours every Monday. This lasted for five weeks and it totally wiped me out.
“The brachytherapy was also extremely painful and I’ve been left with burns on my skin and experience significant pain in all of my joints.
“I used to be confident and enjoy going out. But now I’m a lot more reserved and I’ve been left with anxiety, low moods and fatigue. I’d go to the gym three times a week or go out shopping or meet friends. I tried to return to the gym but I struggled because of the ongoing aches and pains so had to give it up.
“I’ll always be upset at what happened to me especially because I probably wouldn’t have had to go through a lot of what I have if my test result as recorded properly.
“However, despite everything, in some respects I feel fortunate as sadly others don’t survive cervical cancer.
Shona thanks support network for helping her through cancer diagnosis
“I’ve had such a fantastic network around me over the last few years. The support that Ken, my family and special friends, as well as Maggies, the hospital staff I’ve seen since my diagnosis, and that my legal team have all provided, gave me such strength to try and face my cancer head on.
“I know I still face many challenges ahead to get more of my old life back, but I now want to try and put the last few years behind me and focus on the future.
“I just hope that by speaking out I can help others. Despite what happened to me women still need to attend smear tests. Those with cancer shouldn’t feel they have to go through it alone as help and support is available.”
More information on cervical cancer and the signs and symptoms can be found on the Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust website. For more information on Maggies visit the charity's website.
Find out more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in supporting people following a cancer diagnosis at our dedicated cancer claims section. Alternatively, to speak to an expert contact us or call 0370 1500 100.