Failure to diagnose ovarian / vaginal / cervical cancer (Gynecoligic Cancers)

Failure to diagnose ovarian / vaginal / cervical cancer (Gynecoligic Cancers)

Failure to diagnose ovarian / vaginal / cervical cancer (Gynecoligic Cancers) 150 150 Lauren Ellerman

Ok ladies – let’s talk.

Our mamas didn’t sit us all down and explain much about our gal parts – or how to keep ourselves safe – other than – “GO TO YOUR OBGYN.” And so generations of women do very little but an annual or bi-annual pap smear and or visit to the OBGYN. But as the calls and emails to our office reflect, tragically, many women who are receiving OBGYN care are not being treated appropriately and their cancers are being missed.

Part I of this article  – basic anatomy. Part II – How to be your own advocate. Part III – what if the worst happens, and the cancer is missed?


See the above? We each have some version of this – ovaries (usually 2), cervix, uterus, vagina. And sadly, you can get cancer in any of these locations.

So, are there signs and symptoms we should be looking for? In general – yes.

#1 – abnormal bleeding. Any kind of bleeding ‘off cycle’ should be reported to your OBGYN. An ultrasound should be ordered AND REVIEWED by the doctor. Have you had an ultrasound? Doctor isn’t in the room – so ask – “When will the doctor look at this? When will he/she call me to discuss?” Also, a physical examination should be done. Tests – yes, tests. Blood work. Pap Smear. There are labs that should be ordered to see if your abnormal bleeding could be cancer related.

#2 – any pain – call your OBGYN. Could be a cyst. Cysts are bad too – so get them looked at. Could be a tumor – ask about ways to tell the difference. Ask to see the images. Will they do a CT? Will they biopsy it? Ask all the questions you can.

#3 – bloating, discomfort – sometimes bloating is just a reaction to a food. Sometimes, it’s more. Pay attention to your body and call your doctor.

In sum – you know your body best. If something is wrong – get help. ASK QUESTIONS. BE AN ADVOCATE. Also, I am not a doctor so this isn’t medical advice. This is simply observations by a lawyer who helps folks who are really struggling with cancers like ovarian cancer, vaginal cancer, cervical cancer, etc.

Now here is the worst part – Part III – what if the doctor screws up and your cancer is missed?

Sadly, this is where I spend my days. Talking to women whose cancer has been missed, diagnosis delayed and as a result what was a treatable or curable cancer is now causing the worst – likely death.

Here are the ways I have heard of Gynecological Cancers being missed in the last few months:

  • Doctors ordering but not actually reviewing ultrasounds
  • Doctors ordering tests – but lab reports are wrong
  • Doctors failing to call women with test results
  • Doctors failing to order follow up testing
  • Misdiagnosis of imaging (tumor or not?)
  • Failure to operate in a timely manner

Sadly – when our system is so profit / and quantity driven, few doctors get extra time with a patient or a chart. So they miss things – this is called violation of the standard of care, or negligence. More importantly, it could cost a life.

If this has happened to you – I am sorry. So deeply sorry. While I can’t make the cancer go away, we do investigate malpractice cases and pursue those with expert support in the hopes it won’t happen to someone else in the future.

Feel free to call me or email me with questions – or 540-985-0098


About the author

Lauren Ellerman

In 2011, Lauren Ellerman was named "Young Lawyer of the Year" by the Roanoke Bar Association for her work in the community. To speak with Lauren about your personal injury case, contact her at

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