Colon Cancer Misdiagnosis: Was It Medical Malpractice?

Even physicians who don’t specialize in colorectal cancer are often well-versed in the disease’s symptoms; it’s common and affects men and women almost equally. This means that many abnormal polyps are caught early and addressed properly.

But not every patient is approached with the same level of compassionate care. Colon cancer misdiagnoses are rare, but they do occur. Some patients are incorrectly told they have a benign condition, like irritable bowel syndrome, while others are misdiagnosed with cancer and subjected to months of agonizing, ineffective treatments.

Every cancer misdiagnosis is a tragedy, but no patient should be treated as a victim. This is a time for family and friends to band together, to begin preparing for a future filled with hope and joy.

Can I File A Colon Cancer Misdiagnosis Lawsuit?

The causes of misdiagnosis vary widely. Biopsies can be misinterpreted and inaccurately labeled cancerous. Patients can be improperly “staged,” which can drastically affect a physician’s treatment decisions. At alarming rates, doctors dismiss early warning signs, chalking symptoms like abdominal pain and inexplicable weight loss up to a phantom case of hemorrhoids.

But all the serious errors that come under the name “medical malpractice” share one thing in common: a deviation from the standard of care.

Did Your Doctor Violate The Standard Of Care?

Like all professionals, medical workers are held to a standard. It happens to be particularly high, but we can expect that much since their decisions are often a matter of life and death.

Behind lung cancer, malignancies of the colon and rectum are the leading cause of cancer deaths in America.

Basic principles like:

  • considering all of a patient’s symptoms,
  • investigating other potential diagnoses,
  • ruling out possibilities by ordering additional tests and
  • using reasonable care in operating diagnostic equipment

should be followed. Using the utmost care isn’t just necessary to catch cancer; it’s obvious, even to people who aren’t doctors.

But year after year, our medical negligence attorneys speak with patients who were callously given misdiagnosis after misdiagnosis. All the while, their true condition was allowed to fester, as physician after physician dismissed their symptoms, pain and confusion.

This isn’t right. It’s not normal. And it shouldn’t be tolerated.

How Doctors Diagnose – & Misdiagnosis – Colorectal Cancers

Colorectal cancers usually begin as small benign groups of cells. We call these clumps “polyps,” but they rarely cause any adverse side effects at an early stage. In fact, it can take up to 15 years for a polyp to become malignant, and some will never turn into cancer.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control, around 130,000 patients are diagnosed with either colon or rectal cancer every year.

That’s why frequent screening has become a mainstay within the medical community. Physicians employ several tests to catch bowel cancers before they become untreatable:

  • Fecal occult blood tests : cancers and pre-cancerous polyps can both cause bleeding. Doctors test stool samples for traces of blood that can’t be seen by the naked eye.
  • Sigmoidoscopy : using a thin, illuminated tube, physicians inspect the intestines for abnormal cell growth.

In 2012, researchers from the University of Michigan found that sigmoidoscopy screening reduced the rate of colorectal cancer deaths by as much as 50%.
  • Colonoscopy : similar to sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopies use a thin tube to examine the colon and rectum for potential problems. Colonoscopes can reach further into the upper colon, and thus catch more malignancies, than sigmoidoscopes.

But performing any of these tests is ultimately left to a doctor’s discretion. Physicians need to take the initiative, in light of associated risk factors and a patient’s concerns. Tragically, some don’t. Instead, they turn to “easy” diagnoses first, confusing colorectal cancers for benign conditions, like:

Symptoms Of Colorectal Cancer What They’re Confused With
  • Bleeding from the rectum
  • Blood in stool
  • Alteration in defecation habits, like diarrhea or constipation
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Abdominal pain
  • Sensation that you need to defecate that doesn’t go away
  • Cramping in the abdomen
  • Fatigue or a feeling of weakness
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Diverticulitis
  • Ulcerative Colitis
  • Hemorrhoids: sometimes called “piles” when they become inflamed

Of course, colorectal cancer’s resemblance to these more common conditions cuts the other way, too. Researchers at Johns Hopkins have found that 1 out of every 71 “cancer” patients are misdiagnosed. Some only learn that their symptoms are being caused by a benign condition like diverticulitis after undergoing surgery.

Can A Medical Malpractice Claim Help?

It goes without saying that misdiagnoses can have devastating consequences. Patients who desperately need treatment don’t get it, while people who require far more than antibiotics and a change in diet are sent to the pharmacy for a routine prescription.

But patients also lose days, months, even years to worry and pain. Simple joys are abandoned, as family and friends look on, unsure how to act or what to say. At the same time, medical bills are growing higher than any household can bear.

More than one-third of cancer patients report feeling “seriously or very seriously” concerned about bankruptcy, according to a survey conducted by the Cancer Support Community.

Filing a medical malpractice lawsuit won’t bring that time back. It won’t erase the anguish of undergoing ineffective therapies, or being betrayed by a trusted doctor. But it can put you and your loved ones back on a path toward recovery.

How Much Will Filing A Cancer Misdiagnosis Lawsuit Cost?

After a misdiagnosis, many patients turn to the experienced medical malpractice lawyers at Marciano & MacAvoy. Our record of success is a testament, not only to the dedication of our attorneys, but to the strength of our clients.

But cost is a major concern and we understand that. Our attorneys always work on a contingency-fee basis: you owe nothing until we win a court award or settlement in your favor.

Learning more about your legal options comes at no cost, too. Just call our cancer misdiagnosis team today for a free consultation.

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