Advocates for Colon and Rectal Cancer Medical Malpractice Victims
Colon and rectal cancer, known collectively as colorectal cancer, is one of the most preventable yet widespread cancers today. Colorectal cancer is the third most common non-skin cancer and the second leading cancerous cause of death in America. According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 140,000 new cases are diagnosed leading to more than 50,000 deaths each year.
Most cases of colon and rectal cancer could be prevented or diagnosed on time if screening had occurred or had been done properly. Most potentially cancerous polyps can be found before they develop into cancer. Even after cancer has developed, early diagnosis usually leads to a complete cure.
If your doctor has failed to order tests, failed to find polyps during tests, or failed to properly treat polyps and cancer, you may have a claim for medical malpractice.
What is Colorectal Cancer?
Colon cancer starts in the large intestine (colon) and rectal cancer begins in the rectum (end of the colon). Collectively, both cancers are referred to as “colorectal cancer.” The colon and rectum are made up of several layers. Colorectal cancer starts in the inmost layer and can grow into some of the other layers.
Before cancer develops, a growth of tissue or a tumor normally begins as a non-cancerous “polyp” on the inner lining of the colon or rectum. Some of these polyps ultimately develop into cancer. “Adenomatous polyps” are more likely to develop into cancer.
This process of developing cancer typically takes a substantial amount of time. It may take as long as 10-15 years for a polyp to develop into cancer. If found, these polyps can be removed before they develop into cancer. As such, most instances of colorectal cancer are preventable.
Additionally, colon cancers tend to grow and spread slower than other cancers. If diagnosed before the cancer reaches a lymph node, there is a very high cure rate. However, if left untreated, the cancer will spread. While Stage 1 colon cancer has a 74% 5-year observed survival rate (many of these people die due to other age-related reasons), stage IV colorectal cancer only has a 6% five-year survival rate. Once the cancer spreads, treatments become far more invasive and the chance for survival plummets.
Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer
Colon and rectal cancers exhibit several common symptoms. Most people with early forms of the cancer do not have symptoms. This make screening particularly important.
If you complained of these symptoms to a doctor and nothing was done, medical malpractice may have occurred. Symptoms may include the following:
- Unexpected or unintended weight loss
- Bloody Stool
- Dark or black stool
- Abdominal bloating
- Abdominal (belly) cramping or pain
- Gas Pains
- Decreased appetite
- Tiredness or fatigue
Risk Factors for Colorectal Cancers
Some individuals are at an elevated risk for colorectal cancer. Individuals with these risk factors should be particularly vigilant in ensuring proper screening occurs.
- Increasing age (The median age to contract colorectal cancer is 69)
- Extended Asbestos exposure
- Heavy alcohol or tobacco use
- Family history and heredity
- Poor diet
- Lack of exercise
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Previous radiation therapy
Diagnosing Colorectal Cancer and Potentially Cancerous Polyps
Colon and rectal cancers and precancerous polyps can typically be found when proper screening occurs. Medical guidelines recommend screening for colon cancer to begin at age 50 for people with an average risk of cancer. Over 60% of deaths from colorectal cancer could be avoided through proper screening. However, one in three Americans are not up-to-date with their screenings.
While several tests are available, the colonoscopy is the “gold standard” and most effective test. A colonoscopy inserts a viewing mechanism into the anus, rectum, and colon. When properly used, most of the colon and rectum can be seen. Colonoscopies usually include cutting any found polyps from the bowel wall. This can prevent colon and rectal cancers from developing. Colonoscopies require general anesthesia and emptying of the bowels before the procedure. Colonoscopies are recommended ever ten years for individuals 50 years of age and up.
Other tests include digital rectum exams in which a doctor inserts a finger into the patient’s rectum, sigmoidoscopy which inserts a viewing device into the lower colon, barium enema using radioactive barium and x-rays, and virtual colonoscopy which uses magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT) go create a 3D image. All of these tests are less effective than colonoscopy.
Treating Colon and Rectal Cancer
Colon and rectal cancers and usually treated with surgery. If caught before polyps become cancerous, polyps can be removed during a colonoscopy test. There are more than 1 million colorectal cancer survivors in the United States today.
Once cancer has developed, surgery is usually done to remove the cancerous growth or tumor. In some instances, parts of the intestine, colon, or bowel may need to be removed. Lymph nodes may need to me removed. More serious incidents or inoperable tumors may also require chemotherapy or radiation therapy to supplement surgery.
Early diagnosis is essential in order to avoid more life-changing treatment or death. A discovered and removed polyp is a low-risk procedure. However, if left undiscovered, even survivors may suffer from long-term impacts of their treatment. As such, colorectal cancer survivors may have a medical malpractice claim due to a delayed diagnosis. A skilled medical malpractice attorney can help you evaluate your case.
Failure to Diagnose or Prevent Colon Cancer and Rectum Cancer
Unfortunately, despite the effective screening tests and treatments available, colorectal cancer is often not detected until it is too late to avoid death or removal of substantial portions of the digestive tract. While this is sometimes due to the patient’s failure to undergo screening tests, doctors may also be responsible in some instances. Your healthcare provider may have committed medical malpractice if any of the following occurred:
- Failure to perform a digital rectal examination
- Failure to find polyps or cancerous growths
- Conducting a colonoscopy despite inadequate bowel preparation
- Failure to use adequate time to conduct the test
- Failure to pass scope far enough into the colon
- Misinterpretation of colonoscopy or biopsy results
- Failure to remove or treat cancerous findings
- Failure to follow-up
- Failure to recognize or take patient symptoms seriously
- Failure to order or recommend regular screening
- Failure to order tests in response to other suspicious tests
- Failure to recommend appropriate treatment
Failure to Diagnose Colon Cancer Attorneys
If you or a loved one has died or suffered a serious loss due to a failure to diagnose or treat colon or rectum cancer, contact a Medical Malpractice Attorney today. The difference between a timely diagnosis and extensive surgery can be devastating pain, debilitating removal of portions of the digestive tract, financial turmoil, and even death. Our skilled attorneys will listen with compassion, thoroughly review your medical records, and work with medical experts to determine how the cancer was missed. We will use our expertise to get you the compensation you need and deserve.
If you believe you or a loved one has been the victim of substandard medical care during a surgical procedure, contact Gupta Law Group to schedule a free consultation with a skilled medical malpractice lawyer. Cases are taken on a contingency fee basis. You pay no fees unless we recover damages for you.