Though colon cancer is a highly treatable disease, it goes misdiagnosed more often than most people think, and the consequences of misdiagnosis can be devastating. When colon cancer is found early on at the local stage and properly treated, survival rate is at 90 percent. When the cancer is found slightly later on at the regional stage, meaning the tissue surrounding the colon has been infected, survival rate drops to 69 percent. When the disease spreads to other areas of the body, survival rate drops to just 12 percent.
Because colon cancer can be treated easily if found early on, men and women over 50 years old are encouraged to receive regular check ups. However, it is still the doctors responsibility to properly diagnose the disease as soon as possible. In some cases, doctors may dismiss complaints of abdominal pain or bloody stool and attribute the symptoms the the patient’s diet or activities, especially if the patient is a younger person. This is where misdiagnosis comes into play, and the consequences are dire.
Every year, over 50,000 people die from colon cancer. If the cancer is diagnosed too late, the patient may die. If the cancer is diagnosed at a later stage but does not die, they would have to undergo an extremely serious surgery, where surgeons remove a large section of the patient’s colon or rectum. The surgery usually results in the patient have a colostomy bag for the rest of their lives, which has to be emptied on an hourly basis. Having a colostomy bag also puts patients at risk for infection in that area.
If the doctor fails to diagnose and treat the cancer in a timely manner, they may be guilty of medical malpractice. Medical malpractice occurs where a doctor patient relationship existed, the doctor was negligent, and the doctor’s negligence caused the injury. If you need to determine if your colon cancer misdiagnosis was a result of medical malpractice, consider the following:
- When informing your doctor of possible cancer symptoms, did your doctor ever recommend a colonoscopy or other follow-up screenings?
- If you received a colonoscopy, were the results thoroughly and properly analyzed by your doctor?
- Were any polyps identified and properly removed to prevent the development of colon cancer?
- Were symptoms of colon cancer identified?
The National Cancer Institute reports several tests available to check for colon cancer, including a Fecal Occult Blood Test, a Colonoscopy, a Double Contrast Barium Enema, a Sigmoidoscopy, and a Virtual Colonoscopy. The test the doctor chooses is important for diagnosing colon cancer, and the doctor may choose a certain test because of the patient’s age, medical history, or other reason It also may be necessary for the physician to perform more than one test. If the doctor fails to perform any of these tests, or failed to accurately analyze the results, it could be a case of the doctor’s negligence.
Failure to diagnose is a common type of medical malpractice. If a competent doctor could have diagnosed and treated your illness, you may have grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit. In any case, the patient would have to be able to prove that their doctor’s care was less than that of a reasonably competent doctor. If you feel your doctor’s negligence or medical malpractice cause harm to you, do not hesitate to consult with an experienced attorney.