Colon cancer, also known as colorectal cancer, can affect both men and women, and it is the second deadliest form of cancer in the United States. With the proper screening and diagnosis, colon cancer is treatable. In many cases, it is even preventable.
Unfortunately, many patients suffer from the consequences of a doctor’s negligence. In some cases, cancer is diagnosed too late, and that can lead to a much worse prognosis. A colon cancer malpractice attorney may be able to help victims seek accountability and fair compensation from misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis of colon cancer.
What Is Colon Cancer?
The colon is also called the large intestine, and it is the final part of the digestive tract. It is made up of the cecum, ascending colon, transverse colon, descending colon, sigmoid colon and the rectum. Colon cancer affects these areas of the body. The risk of colon cancer is higher for older adults than in other age groups. However, this type of cancer can happen at any age.
Colon cancer often starts as a small, noncancerous group of cells called polyps. These cells form inside the colon. After some time, those polyps can become cancerous. Since the polyps are small, they tend to not produce many symptoms. Most doctors recommend regular cancer screenings to identify and remove those polyps before they turn into a form of cancer.
If your doctor does discover cancerous polyps, there are many methods available for treatment, including surgery, drug treatment and radiation therapy. Some other treatments for colon cancer include targeted therapy, immunotherapy, and chemotherapy.
There are a few symptoms of colon cancer. These symptoms include:
- A persistent change in your bowels, including constipation, diarrhea, or a change in stool consistency;
- Persistent abdominal discomfort, including pain, cramps or gas;
- Weakness or fatigue;
- Rectal bleeding or blood in the stool;
- A full feeling in the bowel;
- Unexpected weight loss.
If you notice any of these signs, you should see a doctor. Your medical professional should recommend a cancer screening test, especially if you are over the age of 50. In the early stages of colon cancer, there might not be any symptoms. If symptoms do appear, they can vary depending on the location and size of cancer in the large intestine.
Depending on your risk factors, your doctor will recommend more frequent screenings. If your medical provider fails to diagnose your cancer accurately, you may be entitled to seek compensation.
What Are the Common Risk Factors Investigated In Colon Cancer Litigation Cases?
Several risk factors can increase the chance of colon cancer. These factors include:
- Older age: While colon cancer can happen at any age, the highest risk is with those who are 50 years and older.
- African American: African Americans have a higher risk of colon cancer than other racial groups.
- Inflammatory intestinal problems: If you have Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, these issues can inflame the colon area. With these medical conditions, there is an increase in the risk of colon cancer.
- History of colorectal cancer or polyps: For those with noncancerous colon polyps, you have a higher risk of colon cancer in the future.
- Family history of colon cancer: If a blood relative has the disease, you are more likely to develop colon cancer.
- Sedentary lifestyle: Inactive people also have a higher chance of developing cancer.
- Obesity: People with obesity also have an increased risk of colon cancer, along with an increased risk of dying from the disease.
- Low-fiber, high-fat diet: Those eating a diet of low-fiber, high-fat foods have a higher chance of developing colon and rectal cancer. Some people who eat a diet high in red meat and processed meat can also have an increased risk of developing colon cancer.
- Smoking: Those who smoke can increase their chances of colon cancer.
- Alcohol: Heavy alcohol use can raise the risk of cancer.
Once you learn the risk factors, you can monitor your health for potential issues. Your doctor should know these symptoms and observe your health. If your doctor fails to diagnose your disease correctly, you can lose critical time to treat this deadly form of cancer.
Does Undiagnosed Colon or Rectal Cancer Mean Medical Malpractice?
Colon cancer is diagnosed through a wide range of tests, including a colonoscopy, rectal exam, barium enema, sigmoidoscopy or biopsy. These tests can be performed as part of your annual exam or in response to specific symptoms, such as a change in bowel habits or bleeding. These yearly exams allow the medical provider to catch colon cancer in the early stages and improve your chances of successful treatment.
However, a doctor can be negligent in the proper care for a patient and fail to order, perform or properly interpret the test. When colon or rectal cancer is not diagnosed at an early stage, treatment options and survival rates are limited. Sometimes, the cancer can travel to other parts of your body in a process known as metastasis. In some cases, the disease may be misdiagnosed. Doctors often confuse it with irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease or other conditions.
If a doctor has failed to diagnose or has misdiagnosed colon cancer, it may be classified as medical malpractice. Your attorney will need to consult with medical experts and investigate the facts of your case. Several medical professionals may have improperly cared for you during this time, including the examining doctor, the laboratory, a pathologist or urologist. If you have been misdiagnosed, you need to protect your legal rights and may be able to recover damages for the failure to diagnose colon or colorectal cancer.
Common Causes of Colon Cancer Malpractice
The medical field has many tests available for doctors to use as early detection methods for colon cancer. However, there are times when these critical tests are not ordered for the patient, especially for those experiencing cancer symptoms. In many cases of colon cancer malpractice, the doctor failed to provide adequate care and dismissed symptoms as just frequent digestive complaints. When a doctor fails to diagnose the patient accurately, this can lead to a delay in receiving vital treatments.
Your medical provider may be negligent in several ways, including:
- Failing to order screening tests, such as colonoscopy, flexible sigmoidoscopy, guaiac analysis or fecal occult assessment for those in high-risk groups for colon cancer.
- Failing to review and assess the patient’s complete medical history.
- Dismissing reported symptoms as just digestive trouble or diarrhea.
- Failing to aggressively monitor patients with preexisting conditions, including inflammatory bowel conditions.
- Failing to connect the symptoms between anemia, bloody stool and persistent abdominal pain.
- Misreading of screening or diagnostic test results.
- Lack of consultation with a specialist or a referral for the patient.
For those with colon cancer, early detection is vital. Delayed treatment or a misdiagnosis can create additional medical complications for the patient, including the removal of the colon and lifetime use of a colostomy bag. In addition to that, any delay in diagnosis can lead to more aggressive treatments, including the need for radical chemotherapy, radiation or surgery.
Unfortunately, in some cases, the misdiagnosis can result in the patient’s death. A negligent doctor can cause a great deal of harm to the patient, including:
- Severe physical pain;
- Inoperable cancer;
- Removal of the colon or other organs;
- Complete or partial loss of the bowel functions;
- Treatment options that are more aggressive, painful and invasive;
- More expensive treatments;
- Increased recovery time;
- Lost wages;
- Long-term or permanent disability;
- Premature death.
There are severe consequences of a misdiagnosis or delayed treatment of colon cancer. When medical providers act negligently, they should be held accountable for their actions. If you have been affected by a negligent doctor, then you need to seek legal advice to get compensation for your medical bills and other damages.
Malpractice Claims Related to Colon Cancer
You must meet certain criteria to establish a medical malpractice claim. These claims must show that the negligent doctor had a doctor-patient relationship with you. The doctor must have breached a professional duty of care. A medical professional must meet specific standards of care and must act in the same manner that another doctor would have acted in a similar situation. Finally, the medical professional’s negligence must have caused actual damages.
In most cases, you will need to find an expert witness for your medical malpractice claim. The expert witness will testify on what is considered the professional standard of care under the circumstances and how a skilled doctor would have acted in the same situation. Your expert witness will need to provide an opinion about whether the doctor acted negligently and breached the professional duty of care by failing to diagnose or misdiagnosing colon cancer. That action must have also resulted in injuries to you. There are times when the healthcare provider will defend their efforts by claiming that the injuries were the result of the progressing illness and not the failure to diagnose the disease.
If you have suffered harm from a misdiagnosis, you need to find the right attorney for your case. The doctor will have a lawyer to protect his or her rights during the process. A medical malpractice lawyer will be there to protect yours.
What Compensation Can You Recover in Colon Cancer Malpractice Lawsuits?
If you have been the victim of a delayed or missed cancer diagnosis, you can take legal action to receive two different types of compensation: economic and non-economic damages.
Economic damages: These damages are actual and measurable expenses, including lost wages, medical costs, rehabilitation costs, and ongoing healthcare costs.
Non-economic damages: These damages are for non-tangible expenses, like physical pain, emotional suffering, disfigurement and the loss of quality of life.
Consulting with a Colon Cancer Malpractice Lawyer
A colon cancer malpractice lawyer can conduct a review of your health records and treatment history. This attorney may also consult with medical experts to determine the standard level of care. During this time, the legal team will gather all the crucial evidence to establish liability in your case. For colon cancer cases, the doctor has a responsibility to take the necessary measures to protect your health. A medical malpractice lawyer understands the trauma of these cases and will help to seek financial recovery for your expenses.
If you have questions about your potential colon cancer malpractice claim, contact the legal team at Raynes Lawn Hehmeyer. Fill out our contact form at www.rayneslaw.com or call us at (800) 535-1797 to schedule a consultation today.
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