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 being diagnosed with her cancer sooner has “devastated” her whole life – leaving her with only months to live, according to doctors.
The mother of Holly, 20, and Will, 16, from Banwell, Somerset, was first diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer in 2018 and underwent treatment that left her with ‘no signs’ of cancer.
The cancer returned in August 2021 and was treated again with a mix of chemotherapy, radiotherapy and brachytherapy – but has since returned and is now incurable.
A later audit of a smear she completed in 2015 showed that North Bristol NHS Trust analysts had failed to identify certain abnormal cells at the time – which would normally have earned her a two-week referral and further investigation.
The Trust apologized to Lisa in 2020, admitting that had she been treated at the time, her cancer might have been prevented – but denies liability, saying the tests were done to an ‘acceptable’ standard.
She has since instructed specialist medical negligence lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate after NHS bosses denied liability for her late diagnosis.
The former church clerk now hopes to raise awareness for the condition as part of Cervical Cancer Prevention Week, which runs January 23-29.
She said: “I have always understood the importance of attending every Pap test and am very aware of the risks if you don’t come, 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 process. I was very worried about telling Holly and Will and dreading the treatment.
“After my first treatment I felt very bad. I was in bed for five weeks, physically unable to do anything. I was exhausted, found it hard to move because of the pain I was in, so when I was told the cancer was gone it was a huge relief.
“I felt I was making good progress. I was back to work and able to go out and meet friends again. But not long after that, I felt it starting to get worse. I began to experience pain, but nothing prepared me for the news that the cancer had come back.
“I have tried to fight it as much as possible, but I am aware that my condition will only worsen with time.
“Before my diagnosis, I lived a happy life and was lucky enough not to have any significant health problems.
“I did a lot of community work and helped organize events such as flea markets, a village carnival, bake sales and discos for the children.
“I was very busy with my community work and my life revolved around my children. However, that has all changed now that I struggle to do anything without the help of others.
“Cancer has destroyed my whole life. The most distressing thing is the impact it has had on my children, who have had to miss large parts of their lives to help me. To have to tell them that I may not have long to live was unspeakably distressing to all of us.
“I know I have an uncertain future ahead of me and I 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 about the signs and symptoms of cervical cancer to help others.”
James Pink, Irwin Mitchell’s expert medical negligence attorney representing Lisa, said: “Unfortunately, through our work, we continue to see the terrible impact cancer has on families and how many people want answers after a diagnosis.
“Understandably, Lisa and her loved ones are devastated by her prognosis and what the future holds, especially as they worry about the events leading up to her initial diagnosis.
“We continue to support Lisa and are committed to giving her the answers she deserves. We are calling on the Trust to work with us to solve her case so Lisa can focus on spending time with her family.
“In the meantime, we are joining her in supporting Cervical Cancer Prevention Week, an incredibly important campaign to raise awareness of signs and symptoms of the disease, the need to participate in screening and the help and support available after the diagnosis.”