Patricia M. Berg, whose battle against cervical cancer helped raise questions about the adequacy of area medical laboratories that evaluate Pap smears, died yesterday at the age of 49.
Berg's case, although she was unidentified at the time, was disclosed by The Washington Post in several articles in April.
The Bethesda mother of two teenage sons was found in May of 1989 to have invasive, incurable cervical cancer, despite having had regular Pap smears for years preceding discovery of the disease.
"I hope there is no one else out there who is going to face what she faced," said Berg's husband, Raymond Christian Berg.
The Pap smear, in which cells are scraped from the cervix to be examined for abnormalities, is a critical test for the early detection of cervical cancer.
When detected early, cervical cancer is curable 90 percent of the time.
About 6,000 women in the United States die from the disease each year. In Berg's case, her lawyers contend, the presence of abnormal cells was not detected by the laboratory that evaluated cell samples taken over several years.
Federal health officials canceled the Medicaid and Medicare certification for Cancer Cytology Medical Laboratory Inc. in March after reports from two inspections alleged several violations, including cases in which cancerous cells were misread as normal, specialists known as cytotechnologists were not properly trained and Pap smear slides were damaged or thrown away. The Rockville laboratory screened 77,000 cases a year, mostly Pap smear slides taken from women from throughout the region.
After disclosure of the laboratory's problems, Maryland officials instituted unannounced inspections of all of the state's cytology laboratories.
Patrick A. Malone, an attorney for the Berg family, said an independent pathologist reviewed Berg's slides and determined that there was "serious misreading" of the cell samples.