Representing Injured Patients and Their Families

Colon cancer is one of the most common – and deadliest -- forms of cancer in the United States. Most adults are advised to start receiving regular colonoscopies at the age of 50. While these exams can help detect and prevent colon cancer from forming, they must be performed properly, and the disease must be diagnosed promptly. When doctors fail to identify the obvious signs of colon cancer, they put patients at risk of getting delayed treatment or dying due to a misdiagnosis. In these instances, the patients’ family members are left to struggle with grief and the financial fallout, but they may be eligible for compensation through a medical malpractice claim.

If you were made worse or someone you love passed due to being misdiagnosed, reach out to the legal team at Wingate, Russotti, Shapiro, Moses & Halperin, LLP. With over 50 years of combined experience handling medical malpractice claims throughout the city, our New York colon cancer misdiagnosis lawyers can investigate your case and determine what went wrong. If there was any amount of medical negligence, we can hold the staff member responsible for your losses in a civil claim. To schedule a free consultation, call us at (212) 986-7353.

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What Is Colon Cancer?

Colon cancer forms along the colon, or the large intestine, when cells begin to grow out of control. The colon is a five-foot long muscular tube located in the abdomen that facilitates the digestion of food, water, and minerals after they have passed through the small intestine, eventually converting them into waste before they pass out of the rectum and anus. Over time, the colon can form polyps, an abnormal growth of tissue in a mucous membrane.

An estimated 5% of adults develop colon cancer in the United States. In New York State, one year saw nearly 9,000 patients diagnosed with colon cancer and over 3,000 dying due to the disease. When caught early, it can be treated, but only if the hospital staff overseeing your case follows proper procedures. Colon cancer can be detected early, before the cancer has metastasized, when there are only a handful of polyps that doctors can cauterize and remove. However, if caught too late, the cancer can spread throughout the body and lead to a patient’s death.

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Detecting and Treating Colon Cancer

Colon cancer is commonly diagnosed through colonoscopy, a common exam performed on patients when they turn 50, but it can be requested by a primary care physician for adults as young as 45 if they have a family history of colon cancer.

A colonoscopy involves inserting a flexible tube into a patient’s rectum after the patient has been given a sedative. The tube contains a small camera that allows the doctor to see the inside of a patient’s colon and look for polyps. The tube is long enough to traverse the entire colon and, besides the camera, contains small tools to collect tissue samples. If a doctor finds a polyp, he should take a biopsy and run a lab test to determine if it is cancerous. In the early stages, doctors may also be able to remove the polyps during the colonoscopy. Doctors can also request follow-up tests, including blood tests and imaging tests (x-rays, CT-scans, etc.), to find further signs of colon cancer.

Early-stage cancer can also be treated with a laparoscopic surgery after an exam, but later stages may require more invasive treatments such as a partial colectomy, which involves removing a portion of a patient’s colon; removing lymph nodes; chemotherapy; drug therapy; or an ostomy, a hole in the stomach that collects waste outside the body in a bag, which may give your colon time to heal. In later stages, however, doctors may only be able to treat the symptoms depending on how far the cancer has spread.

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The Dangers of a Misdiagnosis

Generally, the most obvious symptom of colon cancer is the polyps, but doctors can look at other medical conditions to help diagnose a patient. This can include changes in bowel movements (diarrhea or constipation), blood in a patient’s stool, abdominal cramps, fatigue, and sudden weight loss. However, these symptoms can overlap with many other conditions, which is why a colonoscopy is so important for catching the cancer early.

Sadly, colonoscopies are not perfect. In a study by the University of Utah, researchers discovered that 6% of patients are diagnosed with colon cancer within five years of receiving a clean colonoscopy report. In addition, an analysis of colonoscopy reports found that that there is a 17% miss rate of spotting cancerous polyps.

Typically, it takes around five years for these polyps to become malignant. During that time, doctors should thoroughly review older adults for colon cancer symptoms and take a request for a colonoscopy very seriously. Ignoring the obvious signs of colon cancer, such as polyps, can lead to the cancer being misdiagnosed.

A misdiagnosis is dangerous for any condition, as it can extend the amount of time a patient goes without treatment or lead to the patient receiving the wrong treatment. With cancer, in particular, delayed treatment is deadly. If a doctor is looking in the wrong place or follows the wrong course of treatment, a patient could be put through unnecessary tests and surgeries and may even be injured by the wrong drugs. In addition, a delay in treating cancer could cause the polyps to metastasize. This is almost always a death sentence for a patient, which is why medical malpractice should be punished swiftly.

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Recovering Compensation for a Misdiagnosis

When a medical professional commits an action that deviates from the standard of care, it is medical negligence. For example, if another doctor would have diagnosed you with colon cancer based on the same test results and symptoms, then the doctor who misdiagnosed you has committed malpractice. In order to receive compensation after a misdiagnosis, you will need to thoroughly review your medical records, consult with medical experts, and determine if the doctor who mistreated you has a history of negligence. This can be a stressful and costly process, which is why you should work with an experienced medical malpractice attorney who can investigate your case.

The costs of a cancer misdiagnosis cannot be overstated. A patient may receive delayed treatment for colon cancer, have to go through extensive and draining surgeries, and may need more aggressive chemotherapy – all because a doctor performed a test incorrectly or ignored obvious symptoms. In serious cases, a patient may not be able to recover as the cancer has spread too far. In these instances, patients can pursue civil claims before they pass away to recover compensation for their families. If they have already passed, the family can pursue compensation to cover the costs of their loved one’s treatment, funeral expenses, lost income, and other damages.

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Speak to a Compassionate Attorney Today

Going through a misdiagnosis is a horrific experience, especially because it should never occur. Doctors and medical staff should carefully review a patient’s history, perform all necessary tests thoroughly, and track all records to ensure that no test got mixed up. When these errors do occur, doctors should be held accountable and patients deserve full compensation for the damages they have suffered.

If you or someone you love suffered a colon cancer misdiagnosis due to medical negligence, reach out to the New York medical malpractice lawyer at Wingate, Russotti, Shapiro, Moses & Halperin, LLP. We have more than 50 years of experience and have fought on behalf of numerous families in medical malpractice cases. We can sit down with you in a free consultation and discuss what happened to you. Call us at (212) 986-7353 to learn how we can represent you in a medical malpractice claim.

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