Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. Annually, approximately 130,000 individuals are diagnosed with colon cancer and 56,000 people die because of this cancer. Unfortunately, all too often many of those deaths, which could have been prevented by early diagnosis, result from medical malpractice.
Colon cancer is generally slow growing and one can suffer from colon cancer for some time before symptoms of the disease appear. Those symptoms can include rectal bleeding, abdominal pain, fatigue (caused by anemia association with blood loss) and change in stool size and caliber. Left untreated, as the cancer grows, it will eventually penetrate the intestinal wall and spread to the lymph nodes and other organs, most often the liver. Once the cancer has spread (metastasized) in this fashion, it is essentially incurable. On the other hand, if the cancer is discovered while still within the intestinal wall, surgical removal of the tumor in conjunction with other therapies provide cure rates approaching 100%.
As a result, because early diagnosis is the key, several health organizations, including the American Cancer Society, recommend routine screening of asymptomatic individuals, generally beginning at age 50, for colon cancer. That screening can take the form of digital rectal exams with occult blood testing, flexible sigmoidoscopy, and colonoscopy. The frequency of the screening often depends on an individual’s risk factors for the disease.The Pittsburgh medical malpractice law firm of Rosen Louik & Perry has encountered many different forms of medical malpractice in failing to diagnose colon cancer in a timely fashion. A doctor will often attribute rectal bleeding to hemorrhoids despite the fact that current standards of care requires an examination to rule our cancer when rectal bleeding is present. Additionally, a doctor may fail to follow the recommendations for screening of the American Cancer Society. Moreover, there are times when an lesion is biopsied for study and the pathologist misreads the tissue. In any event, any significant delay in diagnosing colon cancer will be harmful to a patient and decrease the chance of a cure.