‘Devastated’ mum with months to live will take legal action after NHS missed signs of cancer in smear test
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A mum of two with terminal cervical cancer says a ‘negative’ smear test taken three years before her diagnosis showed signs of cancer.
Lisa Stannard, 52, says the failure to diagnose her cancer earlier ‘devastated’ her entire life - leaving her with just months to live, according to doctors. She has since instructed specialist medical negligence lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate after NHS bosses denied liability for her late diagnosis.
The mum of Holly, 20, and Will, 16, from Banwell, Somerset, was first diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer in 2018 and underwent treatment which left her with ‘no signs’ of cancer. The cancer returned in August 2021 and was again treated with a mixture of chemotherapy, radiotherapy and brachytherapy - but it has since returned again and is now incurable.
A later audit of a smear test she completed in 2015 showed that analysts at North Bristol NHS Trust had failed to identify some abnormal cells at the time - which ordinarily would have seen her receive a two-week referral and further investigation.
The Trust apologised to Lisa in 2020 and admitted that, had she been treated at the time, her cancer may have been prevented - but denies liability and says the tests were performed to an ‘acceptable’ standard. The former administrative assistant for a church is now hoping to raise awareness for the condition as part of Cervical Cancer Prevention Week, which runs between Jan 23-29.
She said: “I’ve always understood the importance of attending every smear test and been very aware of the risks if you do not attend but when I was told my test was negative I didn’t really think much of it.
“When I started experiencing my symptoms I knew it was best to seek medical advice but the news that I had cancer was a lot to take in. I was very worried about having to tell Holly and Will and was fearful of the treatment.
“After my initial treatment I was very unwell. I was in bed for five weeks and unable to do anything physically. I was exhausted, found it difficult to move due to the pain that I was in so when I was told the cancer had gone it was huge relief.
“I felt I was making good progress. I was back to work and was able to go out again and meet friends. But then not long after I felt as things started to be getting worse. I started experiencing pain but nothing prepared me for the news that the cancer had come back.
“I’ve tried to fight it as much as possible but I’m aware that my condition will only worsen with time. Before my diagnosis I lived a happy life and was lucky enough to suffer from no significant health problems.
“I did a lot of community work and helped arrange events such as jumble sales, a village carnival as well as bake sales and discos for the children. I was kept very busy with my community work, and my life revolved around my children. However, that’s all changed now I struggle to do anything without the help of others.
“Cancer has devastated my entire life. The most upsetting thing is seeing the impact it’s had on my children who’ve had to miss out on large parts of their lives to help me. To have to tell them that I may not have long to live was indescribably upsetting for us all.
“I know I face an uncertain future and want to try and spend as much time as I can with my family, but I also feel I deserve answers about my diagnosis. I just hope that speaking out I can also raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of cervical cancer to help others.”
James Pink, the expert medical negligence lawyer at Irwin Mitchell representing Lisa, said: “Through our work we sadly continue to see the terrible impact cancer has on families and how many people are left wanting answers following a diagnosis.
“Understandably Lisa and her loved ones are devastated by her prognosis and what the future may hold especially while having concerns about the events that unfolded in the lead up to her initial diagnosis. We continue to support Lisa and are determined to provide her with the answers she deserves. We call on the Trust to work with us to resolve her case, allowing Lisa to focus on spending time with her family.
“In the meantime we join her in supporting Cervical Cancer Prevention Week which is an incredibly important campaign in raising awareness of signs and symptoms of the disease, the need to take part in screening and the help and support available following diagnosis.”