A mother-of-two with terminal cervical cancer says a ‘negative’ Pap smear three years before her diagnosis showed signs of cancer.
Lisa Stannard, 52, says not having her cancer diagnosed earlier has ‘devastated’ her whole life – leaving her with just months to live, doctors say.
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 “ no signs” of cancer.
The cancer returned in August 2021 and was again treated with a mixture of chemotherapy, radiotherapy and brachytherapy – but has since returned and is now incurable.
A later audit of a smear test she took in 2015 showed analysts at the North Bristol NHS Trust failed to identify some abnormal cells at the time – which would normally have allowed her to receive a two-week referral and further investigation.
The Trust apologized to Lisa in 2020 and admitted that had she been treated at the time her cancer might have been prevented – but denies responsibility and says the tests were carried out to a standard’ acceptable».
She has since instructed medical negligence lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate after NHS bosses denied responsibility for her late diagnosis.
The former church administrative assistant now hopes to raise awareness of the disease as part of Cervical Cancer Prevention Week, which runs from January 23-29.
She said: ‘I’ve always understood the importance of attending every smear test and have been very aware of the risks if you don’t attend, but when I was told my test was negative , I didn’t really think about it.
«When I first started having my symptoms I knew it was best to see a doctor, but the news that I had cancer was very hard to take in. I was very worried that I had to tell Holly and Will and I were afraid of the treatment.
“After my initial treatment, I was very sick. I was in bed for five weeks and unable to do anything physically. I was exhausted, struggling to move because of the pain I was experiencing, so when I was told the cancer was gone, it was a huge relief.
“I felt like I was doing well. I was back at work and was able to go out again and meet friends. But soon after, I felt things were starting to get worse. I started to feel pain, but nothing prepared me for the news that the cancer had come back.
“I tried to fight as much as possible but I am aware that my condition will only get worse with time.
“Before my diagnosis, I was living a happy life and was blessed with no major health issues.
“I have done a lot of community work and helped organize events such as flea markets, a village carnival as well as bake sales and discotheques for children.
“I was very busy with my community work and my life revolved around my children. However, everything has changed now, I find it difficult to do anything without the help of others.
“Cancer has devastated my whole life. Most heartbreaking is seeing the impact this has had on my children who had to miss so much of their lives to help me. Having to tell them that I may not have long to live was for all of us indescribably upsetting.
«I know I face an uncertain future and want to try to spend as much time as possible with my family, but I also feel I deserve answers about my diagnosis.
«I just hope that by 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 of cancer on families and the number of people who lack answers after a diagnostic.
“It is understandable that Lisa and those close to her are devastated by her prognosis and what the future may hold, especially while worrying about the events that unfolded prior 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 a hugely important campaign to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of the disease, the need to participate in screening and to help and support available after diagnosis.»