Patient May Have A Medical Malpractice Claim As A Result Of Physician's Failure To Diagnose Colon Ca

18th June 2010
By J. Hernandez in Medical Malpractice
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Consider the following conversation: Patient: "Doctor, I notice blood in my stool." Physician: "There is nothing to worry about and you most likely simply have hemorrhoids."

Tragically, some time subsequently this person learns that the bleeding was in fact the result of a cancerous tumor in the colon. The individual now has advanced colon cancer that has reached the lymph nodes or even to a different organ, like the liver or the lungs. What legal options does the patient have in these circumstances?

The first thing to note is that most physicians concur that if a person reports rectal bleeding or blood in the stool a colonoscopy needs to be conducted so as to learn the reason for the blood. The colonoscopy helps establish if the blood is the result of colon cancer or something else like hemorrhoids. However merely supposing that the blood is the result of hemorrhoids risks missing a cancer.

Colon cancer is a disease that progresses over time. As it advances it becomes tougher to treat successfully. For instance, when the disease is in stage 1 or stage 2, it is still contained inside the wall of the colon. Treatment for these stages generally involves surgery to take out the tumor and adjacent areas of the colon. Chemotherapy is often not used in the treatment of stage 1 and stage 2 unless it may be given to an individual who is young as a precautionary measure. With surgery, the person with stage 1 or stage 2 has a good chance of outliving the disease for at least five years after diagnosis. The relative 5-year survival rate is more than 90% for stage 1 and 73% for stage 2.

By the time the cancer has spread outside the colon. At this stage treatment requires both surgery and chemotherapy (perhaps with other drugs as well). The relative 5-year survival rate for stage 3 is 53%. If it gets to stage 4, the relative 5-year survival rate is lowered to around eight percent. Treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and other medications may or may not still be effective. Once treatment ceases to be effective, the disease is fatal. Around forty eight thousand individuals will die from colon cancer this year alone.

If the patient with rectal bleeding gets a colonoscopy and the tumor is discovered before it has spread to the lymph nodes or to other organs, it can often be removed in the course of the colonoscopy if it is sufficiently small or by surgically extracting the section of the colon containing the tumor. Thus the additional time before diagnosis and treatmenet may be long enough to allow the cancer to get an advanced stage. When this is the case, the patient will need to undergo additional treatments and will have a drastically decreased chance of living for at least five years beyond diagnosis. Based on the laws of the jurisdiction in which the physician was responsible for the delay, this may give rise to a claim for medical malpractice, or in the most extreme case, for wrongful death.

You can learn more about cases involving advanced colon cancer, advanced prostate cancer and advanced breast cancer by visiting the websites
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