A woman who is now terminally ill with cervical cancer had a 95% chance of being successfully treated if a smear test, taken almost nine years ago, had been read and reported correctly, the High Court has heard.

The woman, in her 40s and a mother of two, cannot be named by order of the court. She is suing the Health Service Executive and three laboratories, over the alleged misreading and misreporting of a smear test taken in September 2010.

She was diagnosed with cervical cancer five years later and the court heard she could now have less than two years to live.

Senior Counsel Patrick Treacy told the court the 2010 smear was received by Medlab Pathology in Sandyford in Dublin and sent to Clinical Pathology Laboratories in Austin, Texas, to be dealt with.

That laboratory reported that the specimen was adequate and it was negative for signs of abnormality. It recommended the woman return for a routine smear test in three years' time. The woman became pregnant with her first child not long after this.

Mr Treacy said an expert to be called on the woman's behalf would say the smear was inadequate and did not have enough cells on it to be assessed. 

Two slides were taken from the sample and the doctor would also say there were abnormal single cells and abnormal groups of cells readily identifiable on both slides, showing a high grade abnormality clearly present.

He said these precancerous cells should have been identified and the woman should have been referred immediately for a colposcopy.

Mr Treacy said the doctor would say this missed opportunity to treat the woman in 2010 would on the balance of probabilities have prevented the development of cervical cancer.

He said another expert, Professor John Shepherd, would say that if the slide had been correctly read, the woman would have been called back and treated. He would say there would have been a 95% chance of a cure and less than a 1% chance of her developing cervical cancer.

The woman went on to have a second child and had no symptoms or suspicion that anything was wrong, the court heard.

She went for another smear test in September 2015 where the abnormalities were detected and she was diagnosed with cancer. She went on to have a highly invasive radical hysterectomy and other surgery the court heard, from which she took a long time to recover.

However, in September 2017 doctors discovered a further mass growing beside her bladder. The court heard the last months of that year were a "living nightmare" for the woman.

The treatment was again traumatic and she had to live separately from her children due to concerns about infection. One of her children was diagnosed with special needs and she missed the birthday of the other. Doctors subsequently discovered a further lump in her abdomen.

The woman has been receiving palliative chemotherapy and the court was told she had a prognosis of between 12 to 22 months in terms of her survival time.

The court heard a scan in January had shown some good news but the woman herself does not feel right and will have a further check up next week.

Mr Treacy said the woman was suffering from severe physical and psychological effects as a result of her illness and treatment. She was gravely concerned about the welfare of her children and the "joy, peace and challenge of motherhood" had been taken away for her.

She felt under constant stress and felt guilty that she had missed time with her sons due to her illness. She had signs of depression and anxiety.

The court heard her husband suffered from anger, depression, anxiety and stress. He was constantly thinking about his wife's prognosis and what was going to happen to the children.

There were added difficulties, the court heard, due to the particular needs of one of the children.

Mr Treacy told the court the couple in this case, had an expectation that when this controversy became public, the state would deal with the issue "four-squarely". But he said that had not been realised.

During a discussion about whether or not the HSE should be held liable if any negligence was found, Mr Treacy said the State would not take responsibility. 

He said the State did not engage with the cases - it does not call witnesses and says it is a problem for the laboratories, he claimed. 

But he said it was the HSE who had decided to close Irish laboratories and outsource the screening of cervical smear tests and it could not resile from having primary liability.

The woman's lawyers intend to call a number of witnesses to deal with the original decision to outsource the cervical screening and the quality assurance accreditation of the laboratories involved.

Mr Treacy said the woman in this case was not one of those whose previous smears had been audited even though she was someone who had a negative smear but was then found to have cancer.

He said this was inexplicable to the woman.

The woman herself began her evidence to the court late this afternoon. She said she was numb with shock when diagnosed with cancer in September 2015. Christmas that year was "doom and gloom" she said. 

And she described a very difficult recovery process after a radical hysterectomy in January 2016. 

She will continue her evidence tomorrow.

The HSE and the laboratories deny the claims.