What to do if your gynaecological health condition has been poorly diagnosed

What To Do If Your Gynaecological Health Condition Has Been Poorly Diagnosed

In a recent article entitled, ‘Failure or a delay in diagnosis of Women’s gynaecological health impact negatively in their mental health’, we discussed the serious impact of failure or delay in diagnosing women’s gynaecological health problems on mental health. In particular, we highlighted the shocking experiences of TV and media personalities, Naga Munchetty and Vicky Pattison, who both faced significant challenges in getting diagnosed and treated for gynaecological and reproductive conditions and how this affected their psychological well-being. In this article, we will look further into what you can do if your gynaecological health condition has been poorly diagnosed.

What can go wrong when diagnosing a gynaecological health condition?

Broadly speaking, there are three main ways in which the diagnosis of a gynaecological condition may be poorly handled:

  • Delayed diagnosis – where the correct diagnosis is made but the process takes longer than it should, potentially leading to a poorer health outcome.

  • Failure to diagnose – where no diagnosis is made. This may occur, for example, if a patient reports certain symptoms but this does not result in a detailed assessment being taken and hence no diagnosis being made.

  • Mis-diagnosis – where a diagnosis is made but it is incorrect.

These unfortunate outcomes may arise for a wide range of reasons including:

  • Lack of access to previous medical records

  • Failure to refer to a specialist

  • Not requesting tests (e.g. blood tests), or

  • Poor understanding of gynaecological health conditions and how they present

It may be that when a patient presents to their GP or another doctor, a full medical assessment is not carried out, and therefore, the symptoms are not fully understood. All too often, the pain associated with serious gynaecological health conditions is dismissed as normal or ‘something to live with’. This was the case for Tracey who was diagnosed with the debilitating and painful condition, adenomyosis at the age of 56. In March 2023, she told ‘i News’, “I never felt that I was waiting for a diagnosis because it was never mentioned that it might be anything out of the ordinary”. Any patient presenting with serious gynaecological pain should be referred to a gynaecological health specialist with the skills and expertise to provide a proper timely diagnosis.

What are the most commonly misdiagnosed gynaecological health conditions?

Some of the most commonly misdiagnosed gynaecological health conditions include:

Endometriosis: Endometriosis is a condition whereby tissue that is similar to the lining of the uterus grows outside the uterus. Endometriosis often goes undiagnosed or misdiagnosed because symptoms can vary widely, and they are similar to other conditions such as pelvic inflammatory disease or irritable bowel syndrome.

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS): Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is a common hormonal disorder that causes irregular periods, acne, and excess hair growth. The symptoms of PCOS often overlap with other conditions again leading to misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis.

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease: Pelvic Inflammatory Disease is an infection of the female reproductive organs, often caused by sexually transmitted infections. Its symptoms can be mistaken for other conditions, and a delay in diagnosis can lead to complications.

Fibroids: Uterine fibroids are noncancerous growths in the uterus that can cause symptoms such as heavy menstrual bleeding and pelvic pain. However, these symptoms may be attributed to other gynaecological issues.

Ovarian Cancer: Symptoms of ovarian cancer, such as bloating, abdominal pain, and changes in bowel habits, can be vague and may be attributed to other conditions, leading to delayed diagnosis.

Adenomyosis: Adenomyosis happens when the tissue lining the uterus, known as endometrial tissue, grows into the muscular wall of the uterus (myometrium). This makes the uterus bigger, heavier, and more sensitive. It’s usually found in women who have had children and comes with symptoms like intense or lengthy menstrual bleeding, pelvic pain, and cramps. The cause isn’t fully understood, and diagnosis can be tricky because symptoms can be similar to other gynaecological conditions.

Can I claim for gynaecological medical negligence?

There are two main tests that a Solicitor will consider when determining if you have a valid claim for gynaecological medical negligence; 1) The ‘Bolam’ test and 2) the 3-part test for clinical negligence.

The Bolam test simply asks whether a competent body of medical practitioners would have acted similarly in the same situation. This principle has been influential in shaping medical negligence law in the UK, emphasising the importance of professional consensus in determining whether a healthcare provider has met the standard of care required.

The 3-part test asks three questions:
1. Did your doctor owe you a duty of care? and
2. Was that duty of care breached, and?
3. Did you suffer harm as a result of the breach?

The answer to the first question will almost certainly be ‘yes’ given that doctors have a legal duty of care to their patients. It is somewhat harder to prove that the duty of care was breached as it must be shown with evidence that they made a mistake when diagnosing you. An expert witness report, written by a medical specialist with expertise in the field, may be required to prove that this was the case. And finally, a clear link must be established between the breach and the harm caused; this is often the hardest part to prove, especially if there is a long time in gap between the cause and effect.

In November 2023, Yvette Greenway-Mansfield was awarded a settlement of at “least £1m”after she was given an unnecessary mesh implant at Coventry’s University Hospital resulting in serious medical complications. The mesh caused considerable internal damage, pain, bleeding, and erosion to the vagninal wall. According to the details of her case, Ms Greenway Mansfield was was fitted with a transvaginal tape (TVT) mesh implant “prematurely and unnecessarily”. Furthermore, her consent form had been doctored after she had signed it to include additional risks that were not mentioned to her. These added risks included failure, tape erosion, pain, overactive bladder and deep vein thrombosis. Such cases highlight the devastating physical and mental impact the poor treatment of gynaecological conditions, which could potentially have been treated with other less invasive measures such as physiotherapy.

Wrapping up

If you believe that your gynaecological health condition has been poorly diagnosed, it is important to speak openly with your GP or other medical professional in the first instance and seek second opinions if needed. Do not be afraid of seeking a second opinion, being persistent about your matter, or asking for a referral to a specialist.

From a legal standpoint, if you wish to take action due to medical negligence against the health professional, hospital, or NHS trust that dealt with your matter, speak to Medical Negligence Solicitor. A medical negligence Solicitor will listen to the details of your case and advise if you have a valid claim for compensation for any loss and your pain and suffering. If so, they will guide and support you through the claim process from the outset to completion.

Our team has decades of combined experience in successfully advising and representing clients in gynaecological negligence claims. 

Our Nicholson Jones Sutton Medical Negligence Specialists are sympathetic, understanding, and can help you get the outcome you deserve.

If you would like to discuss an issue, please get in touch to arrange a free no obligation consultation. We’re available by email or phone.


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