Colon Cancer: My Doctor Missed It
The Chance of Medical Malpractice
Did you know colorectal (colon) cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths in the United States? Nowadays, many physicians are able to make an early diagnosis of colon cancer, which often leads to a complete cure for a patient. However, if a medical provider does not practice proper care when it comes to diagnosing and treating patients for colon cancer, they may have committed medical malpractice.
For example, if a doctor fails to recommend and order a colonoscopy for a high-risk or suspecting patient, they may have committed malpractice if the patient does develop colon cancer. Also, if a patient has a change in their colon cancer treatment because of a delay in the doctor’s diagnosis; or, if there is metastasis (spread of the cancer from its site of origin), the patient may have a viable medical negligence claim.
Causes and Risks of Colon Cancer
Colon cancer occurs in the colon (the part of the digestive system where the waste material is stored) and the rectum (the end of the colon adjacent to the anus). Together, they form a long, muscular tube called the large intestine. There is no single cause for colon cancer, however almost all cases of colon cancers begin as benign tumors called polyps that form inside this area. If benign polyps are not removed, they can become malignant (cancerous) over time. This is why it is very important for a doctor to request regular screenings and other tests to promptly catch any sign of a polyp before it becomes malignant. If customary medical standards are not taken, medical providers can face serious medical malpractice claims against them.
Even though colorectal cancer can be asymptomatic, many patients experience symptoms such as abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, changes in bowel habits, tiredness and weakness.
Risk Factors Out of Your Control
Often, developing colon cancer can be out of a person’s control, no matter how health conscious they are. Therefore, risks for this type of cancer often correlate with such factors as a person’s genetic make-up.
Risk factors for developing colon cancer that are out of a patient’s control can include:
- Having a family history of colorectal cancer or polyps, chronic inflammatory bowel diseases
- Having a personal history of previous colorectal cancer or polyps
- Having a personal history of other types of cancer, such as breast or ovarian cancers
- Being older than 50 years old
- Being of a certain ethnic background – African-Americans have had a higher incidence rate of colorectal cancer than any other ethnic group
Risk Factors You Can Control
Some factors that raise the risk of colorectal cancer that are within your control include:
- Smoking or drinking alcohol
- Having a diet that is high in red or processed meats
- Being overweight
- Exercising too little
The Importance of Screening
Benign polyps may be small and produce few, if any, symptoms. For this reason, doctors recommend regular screening tests to help prevent colon cancer by identifying polyps in their early, benign stages. Screening for colon cancer involves testing the stool for hidden blood, typically be way of performing a colonoscopy. This screening process should be started at age 50, (45 for African Americans), for those persons with an average risk for colon cancer and should be repeated every 10 years. People with a higher risk for colon cancer should be screened more frequently as recommended by their gastroenterologist or primary care physician. Although colon cancer can be life-threatening (especially if a doctor negligently fails to diagnose or misdiagnoses a patient) it can be caught and cured with an early diagnosis. Stage I, II and III cancers are considered potentially curable, but in most cases, stage IV cancer is not curable.
Always be proactive with your medical care, urging your physician to promptly order tests and colon screenings. Even if you do not show any symptoms or are considered low risk for colon cancer, your doctor must order the necessary tests if you have any suspicions of having cancer or make a request for one. Again, failing to promptly diagnose and treat a patient for colon cancer can result in medical malpractice on the part of the medical provider.
If you have questions concerning issues of medical malpractice, or would like to learn more, please visit the Rue & Ziffra website or contact our office for a free consultation. The Florida medical negligence attorneys at Rue & Ziffra, have experience in dealing with various types of malpractice cases and are willing to take your call. We also employ an on-location registered nurse available to answer confusing medical questions.
The above entry is NOT LEGAL ADVICE and should not be intended or construed as such. It is intended only as general information. No individual reading it should act upon it. Reading this entry does not create any relationship between Rue & Ziffra and individuals reading it. If you have questions or concerns, please seek professional legal counsel.