Cervical screening awareness: Women not warned of side effects of abnormal cells removal treatment
- Clinical Negligence
A charity has warned how tens of thousands of women who have abnormal cells removed to reduce the risk of cervical cancer are not warned of the potential side effects prior to going ahead with the procedure.
Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust recently launched a study in which it was found that one in five women were not warned that they could experience pelvic pain, loss of libido and bleeding following the removal of abnormal cells.
1,622 women were surveyed by the charity and a total of 86% stated they experienced bleeding or spotting following the procedure. However, just 15% of these women recognised this as a side effect. And almost half of the women surveyed – 46% - lost their sex drive, yet only 9% had been warned of this as a potential side effect prior to treatment.
The study also identified numerous psychological side effects, including 71% of women experiencing anxiety and 24% of women experiencing depression following treatment. Furthermore, those women who experienced a loss of libido also stated that this has led to a lack of body confidence and sometimes even sexual dissociation.
Worryingly, the survey found that many women who did experience such side effects did not seek support, the main reasons being ‘not wanting to bother anyone’ or ‘embarrassment’.
Each year, abnormal cells are identified in around 220,000 women in the UK following routine cervical smear tests, and so being clear on the side effects of the treatment is vital.
While not all abnormal cells will become cancerous, early removal of them is highly effective. The procedure, which will differ depending on your cervical screening results, can be performed in minutes under local anaesthetic.
Following the survey’s findings, Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust is urging for standardised information regarding the potential side effects of the treatment. Head of support services at the charity, Rebecca Shoosmith, said: “While treatment for cell changes remains highly effective, we must start to see it as more than just a simple procedure and acknowledge the impact diagnosis and treatment can have on women.
“There has been lots of focus on the needs of those attending screening, and of those with a cancer diagnosis, but this is a group who have previously been overlooked. Better information provision and support for those having treatment is essential.”
There is no doubt that providing patients with proper information is key when offering any form of treatment. Individuals can adjust to and manage outcomes much better when they have been fully counselled around the procedure that they are having. In litigation, the issue of informed consent is even more relevant. If a patient suffers injury during a procedure which they would not have undergone at all if they had been made aware of the risk of that injury, then they might want to consider whether to make a claim in respect of the damage that they have suffered. By ensuring that patients have all the facts, about which they would expect to be told, available to them ahead of a medical procedure, not only helps them prepare for it but also offers protection to the those offering the treatment.
Lesley Herbertson is a clinical negligence solicitor here at Potter Rees Dolan. Should you have any queries about clinical negligence issues or indeed any other aspect of this article and wish to speak to Lesley or any other member of the team please contact us on 0161 237 5888 or email Lesley directly.