Cancer of the colon and rectum is one of the most frequently undiagnosed conditions, leading to numerous medical malpractice lawsuits. These cancers claim about 50,000 lives each year, many of whom could have been saved with proper diagnosis. Colon cancer has one of the highest mortality rates, higher than either breast cancer or prostate cancer. Properly performed screenings could help reduce this mortality rate by detecting the cancer sooner so treatments can be provided when survival rates are higher.
If you or a loved one had colon or rectal cancer that was detected when advanced, resulting in death or the need for aggressive treatment, you may be able to receive compensation for your injuries or loss. To learn more about your legal options, please call 1-800 THE FIRM or email our medical malpractice attorneys for a free consultation.
Standard Test for Colon Cancer
Technically, colon cancer is cancer of the longest part of the large intestine, while rectal cancer is cancer of the last few inches of the large intestine. Doctors often lump the two types of cancer together as colorectal cancer and it is common to use the term colon cancer to refer to both types. Despite recent controversy, the standard of care, according to most doctors and the National Cancer Institute, includes colonoscopy as the most accurate screening tool for colon cancer. There are other tests available, but a colonoscopy performed by a well-trained professional experienced in the procedure is the standard and remains the best tool for detecting cancerous and precancerous polyps in the large intestine. If a doctor relies too heavily on other methods, you are at an increased risk for delayed diagnosis of colon cancer.
In colonoscopy, a flexible device, known as an endoscope, is inserted into the large intestine. The endoscope includes a camera to look for suspicious lesions and growths, and also has small manipulative tools to perform biopsies. A biopsy involves taking tissue samples that are then evaluated to determine whether they are benign or malignant.
Weaknesses of Colonoscopy
The main weaknesses of colonoscopy are related to operator error. Inexperienced or unskilled endoscope operators may leave lesions undetected, resulting in delayed diagnosis.
One study showed a potential weakness of colonoscopy in detecting lesions on both sides of the intestine: more lesions are missed on the right side of the intestine than on the left. However, this may be due to operator error. About 70% of colonoscopies studied were performed by someone other than a trained gastroenterologist, and other studies have shown that trained gastroenterologists find more lesions than interns and general practitioners who perform colonoscopies.
Another factor in the detection of lesions is the amount of time a doctor dedicates to the procedure. Studies have shown that if a doctor takes the recommended six minutes between insertion and removal of the endoscope, he will detect 2-3 times more potentially cancerous lesions than doctors that take less than the recommended.
Following Up on Colonoscopy
An important part of colonoscopy is the follow-up. The screener should remove and/or sample suspicious growths. Samples should be tested to determine whether they are malignant or benign, and these results will determine whether further treatment is necessary. Unfortunately, many doctors do not properly follow-up on colonoscopy results. This simple act of medical negligence can increase your risk of developing fatal colon cancer.
If you or a loved one has had a delayed diagnosis of colon cancer due to a doctor’s error, please schedule a consultation with the medical malpractice lawyers at The Cochran Firm in Miami to learn more about your legal rights and options. Serving South Florida including Ft Lauderdale and nearby areas.