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Let’s discuss… an end to cervical cancer?

By Sarah Loxley

Published In: Clinical Negligence

This week is Cervical Cancer Prevention Week (22 January – 28 January 2024), which is calling for action to end cervical cancer in the UK, with the World Health Organisation publishing a global strategy to help achieve this.


photo of female doctor and female patient

Cervical Cancer is the fourth most common cancer worldwide in women. In the UK, around 3,200 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year, with over 800 losing their lives. The highest Incidence is amongst women aged 30-34. That translates to 9 women a day diagnosed with cervical cancer, with 2 women a day losing their lives.

 It is important to note that through a combination of the HPV vaccination and cervical screening, the UK government reports that approximately 99.8% of cervical cancer cases are preventable.

NHS England has pledged to eliminate cervical cancer by 2040 and has set up the together, #WeCan initiative to reach that target much sooner! 

Unfortunately, Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust has found that the lack of understanding around HPV and the efficacy of vaccinations is a massive barrier to the performance of the HPV vaccination, with antivaccine sentiment and inequalities in reaching communities representing around 50% of the barrier. 

On the contrary, the HPV immunisation programme has successfully almost eliminated cervical cancer in women born since 1 September 1995, with the number of cases of cervical cancer falling by 87% amongst women in their 20s. Cervical screening using cytology also prevents 7 in 10 incidences of cervical cancer, and HPV primary screening prevents even more.

 All women in the UK are eligible for cervical screening from the age of 24.5 - 64.

Sadly there are instances where cervical cancer can be misdiagnosed and delays in treatment can occur due to the signs of cervical cancer being mistaken for either heavy periods or the menopause. The signs to be aware of are:

  • Pain and bleeding after sex
  • Spotting and irregular periods
  • Changes in menstrual cycle
  • Irregular discharge
  • Unexplained pain in your lower back or pelvis

It has recently been reported that Kerry Pugh who lived in Shrewsbury was diagnosed with Stage 4 Cervical Cancer in 2022. She underwent checks at Royal Shrewsbury Hospital in 2017 following a 10 year history of abnormal cells. Her symptoms in 2017 included pain during sex. She was tested but her results were reported as normal. Her symptoms worsened and she continued to report to her GP and hospital. All tests undertaken were reported as normal and there appeared to be no explanation for her ongoing symptoms. Sadly, Mrs Pugh’s symptoms worsened and she experienced pain in her Coccyx which resulted in a referral for an scan. This demonstrated a large mass in and around her cervix, resulting in a Stage 4 diagnosis of cancer.  An audit following her death in 2022, showed that her test results in 2018 had been misreported as normal.

Mrs Pugh’s family sought legal advice and were able to bring claim for the delay in diagnosis.

It is important to note that your GP and hospital is under a duty of care to follow up all reported symptoms and arrange further investigations such as a colposcopy, biopsy or scan to help determine the cause.

Unfortunately, as in the case of Mrs Pugh, smear tests can be reported incorrectly and there are also high instances of mis-reading High Grade cell changes.

Regrettably, research has found that 1 in 3 women are not up to date with their cervical screening. Over 50% of cervical cancer incidences are in women who have never been screened or are under-screened.

If screening rates do not improve amongst unvaccinated women, we could see a 100% increase in cervical cancer deaths amongst 60–64-year-olds by 2040.

If you are eligible and are due/overdue a cervical smear test, we urge you to book a screening now with either your GP practice or your local sexual health clinic!

HPV vaccinations, cervical screening, and symptom awareness can all help prevent unnecessary deaths due to cervical cancer and so we want to motivate all women to get checked now and seek urgent medical attention if you are experiencing any symptoms that that relate to cervical cancer. It’s never too late to get checked.

At Switalskis, we support clients and families where a misdiagnosis or delay in diagnosis has occurred. If you think you have received inadequate or delayed treatment by your GP or other medical providers relating to cervical cancer, you may have a medical negligence claim. If you feel this applies to you or anyone you know, please reach out and make contact with us so that we can begin to support you. Call 0800 138 0458 or email

 For more information on how you can get involved in eliminating cervical cancer, please visit Jo’s cervical cancer trust . Together, #WeCan  end cervical cancer.  

Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust are calling for the UK government to commit to eliminating cervical cancer using the above strategies. Join the conversation and contact your MP about cervical cancer elimination. Find out more here.



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Sarah is a trainee solicitor in our medical negligence team focusing on complex, high value claims.

Trainee Solicitor

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