Failure to Diagnose Colon Cancer

Colon cancer is the second most prevalent cause of cancer-related death. Each year in the US, nearly 130,000 Americans receive a colon cancer diagnosis, and 56,000 will lose their lives from a type of cancer which if diagnosed early can often be successfully treated.

Routine screening, especially in individuals over age 50, is the best means of early diagnosis and successful treatment. Because colon cancer produces few symptoms early on, and is typically incurable once it has spread to adjacent organs, active screening is strongly recommended to identify and remove small tumors, vastly improving the long-term prognosis.

When properly detected via standard screening methodologies, colon cancers can be curable. When a physician fails to diagnose colon cancer, the results can be more unfortunate.

Screening includes:

  • Annual digital rectal exams with chemical testing for occult rectal bleeding
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy
  • Colonoscopy

Colon Cancer Risk Factors

  • Diets high in animal fats
  • Hereditary polypoid diseases of the large intestine
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (especially ulcerative colitis)
  • Cigarette smoking

Colon Cancer Symptoms

  • Abdominal pain
  • Fatigue (due to chronic blood loss)
  • Changes in stool size or caliber

Thanks to advanced screening methods and earlier detection, most colon cancers can be surgically treated to remove tumors before the cancer metastasizes to other organs. For those patients with metastasized disease, post-operative radiation and chemotherapy are the treatments of choice.

Physician’s Failure to Diagnose Colon Cancer

The goal of diagnosis is to prevent colon cancer from spreading to other organs. If the treating physician fails to diagnose your colon cancer before this stage, this could indicate a failure to properly evaluate your complaint of rectal bleeding, mistaking it for bleeding due to hemorrhoids. This is where standards of care come into play. Any patient presenting with rectal bleeding, regardless of age, should receive a thorough diagnostic search for a colonic neoplasm. Blindly attributing rectal bleeding to hemorrhoids, without an examination of the patient’s large intestine, could be construed as a misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose. Alternatively, the pathologist, a specialist whose job is to examine intestinal tissue removed during endoscopic biopsy, may mischaracterize the tissue as benign, or not cancerous. Such errors can cause significant delays in diagnosis and treatment, allowing cancer to spread and become incurable.

If you believe your colon cancer, or a loved one’s disease, is the result of a failure to diagnose, take time today to speak to a qualified attorney.