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. Behind lung cancer, malignancies of the colon and rectum are the leading cause of cancer deaths in America.
The causes of cancer misdiagnoses 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.
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.
The following basic principles 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 Philadelphia cancer misdiagnosis 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.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control, around 130,000 patients are diagnosed with either colon or rectal cancer every year. 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.
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:
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.
Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer:
What They’re Mistaken for:
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.
It goes without saying that colon cancer 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.
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.
After a misdiagnosis, many patients turn to the experienced Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyers at Marciano & MacAvoy, P.C. Our record of success is a testament, not only to the dedication of our attorneys, but to the strength of our clients. 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.