The National Cancer Institute estimates that over 100,000 people per year are diagnosed with colon cancer. It is the fourth most common cancer found in both men and women, despite the decline in overall diagnosis and an increase in the screening process. This can partly be attributed to many people who are at high risk for the disease not getting screened. The various signs and symptoms related to colon cancer can result in a misdiagnosis or missed diagnosis and because colon cancer is hard to control once it has spread to other organ in the body, a misdiagnosis can be a fatal error.
Misdiagnosis and Missed Diagnosis of Colon Cancer
A disease that is misdiagnosed can feel frustrating. Unnecessary treatments can result in soaring medical costs, all the while your condition continues to worsen and your quality of life deteriorates. Valuable time would be wasted on ineffective treatment while your already serious condition became worse. Failing to detect an illness all together, or a missed diagnosis, can result in lost time that could have been used confronting a highly treatable condition or life-threatening disease. A timely diagnosis can be the difference between life and death.
Colon cancer symptoms can vary significantly between individuals, and there are many other conditions that produce similar symptoms. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), diverticulitis, colitis, and hemorrhoids are some of the conditions most commonly confused with colon cancer. However, your doctor should be able to determine your illness through extensive testing and biopsies to give the most accurate diagnosis.
What Is Colon Cancer?
Colon cancer or colorectal cancer develops when tumors occur along the lining of the large intestine. Often taking the shape of a polyp (a small cluster of cells), the tumors are usually benign, but over time, can become cancerous and easily spread to other parts of the body. Men are typically at a higher risk for colon cancer, although colon cancer affects women as well. Obesity, race, and genetics are all risk factors to this disease.
Signs and Symptoms â€“ What Your Doctor Should Look For
Signs and symptoms of colon cancer are common ailments that many people experience over their lifetime so it may not be clear when symptoms indicate something more serious. According to the United States National Library of Medicine the following are symptoms of colorectal cancer:
- Diarrhea, constipation
- Nausea, vomiting
- A feeling that your bowel does not completely empty
- Bloody stools (bright red or dark red)
- Frequent gas, painful cramps, bloating, or feeling full
- Weight loss
These symptoms can also be tied to iron deficiency, uremia, celiac disease, Crohnâ€™s disease, or peritonitis. You doctor should be able to determine what tests should be given based upon symptoms. Certain symptoms for colon cancer can depend on where the tumor is located.
Diagnosing Colon Cancer â€“ Did Your Doctor Run The Correct Tests?
Once you have seen your doctor regarding your symptoms, your doctor should run a series of tests to determine the extent of your illness. Symptoms can determine what kind of tests will be administered.
A dark or bloody stool is a common symptom in those suffering from colon cancer. This is often because there is bleeding in the large intestine, but to be certain, doctors will administer a blood test. If the test reveals low hemoglobin levels, then a cancer diagnosis must be explored as cancer causes the body to produce fewer red blood cells. Tumor markers often appear in the blood and can give a more factual indication if there is cancer.
Biopsy procedures are common when it comes to detecting any type of cancer in the body. A small amount of tissues is removed and sent to a lab to be tested and then analyzed by a pathologist. Unfortunately, instances have occurred where errors have been made at the off-site facility unbeknownst to the doctor, resulting in misleading lab results and a misdiagnosis.
Imaging tests are common diagnostic procedures and done through a variety of techniques to take an image of the inside of your body. It is also a successful way to determine if and how much the cancer has spread. Common imaging procedures for colon cancer are as follows:
- CT or CAT Scan
- Barium Enema
Other screenings such as a colonoscopy and a sigmoidoscopy are more surgical. The purpose of the colonoscopy is to find ulcers, polyps, tumors, bleeding, and inflammation by ways of a flexible tube inserted into the rectum. Polyps, tumors, and other general abnormalities can also be checked during a sigmoidoscopy. This procedure looks at the area of the colon called the sigmoid colon, which is the section of colon that connects to the rectum (making an â€œSâ€ shape). Since early detection is key to fighting colon cancer, these types of screenings are common for men and women to consider receiving regularly after the age for 50.
Treatment â€“ Did Your Doctor Explain Your Options?
Treatment options for colon cancer are based upon the stage of cancer. Surgery is recommended in the early stages of the cancer because chances are higher in removing everything and leaving the patient cancer free. Common surgical procedures include:
- Local Excision
Surgery is also an option for those in the later stages of the disease.
The following are the most common chemotherapy treatments for colorectal cancer according to the American Cancer Society:
- 5-Fluorouracil (5-FU)
- Capecitabine (Xeloda)
- Irinotecan (Camptosar)
- Oxaliplatin (Eloxatin)
- Trifluridine and tipiracil (Lonsurf)
Chemotherapy can be used during different times when treating colorectal cancer, either before or after surgery, or instead of surgery. However, chemotherapy isnâ€™t likely to cure colon cancer once it has spread to other organs. That is why it is important that colon cancer be detected in the earliest possible stage, through correct diagnostic procedures, and competent medical professionals.
Often used in conjunction with chemotherapy, radiation uses high-energy rays to break down and destroy cancer cells. Radiation can be used either before or after surgery and also help stop cancer from spreading to other organs. Common radiation treatments for colon/colorectal cancers are:
- External Beam Radiation Therapy
- Internal Radiation Therapy (endocavitary and interstitial)
Colon and rectal cancer may develop slowly, but typically once detected, the cancer is advanced and potentially life-threatening. Early screenings are critical; a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy could reveal a polyp that could be removed before it becomes malignant. Physicians are responsible for properly administering tests, seeking consultations with other doctors, and undertaking examinations to determine which medical condition is most likely causing your symptoms. When these standards are not met and patients suffer as a result, our firm can file a claim based on misdiagnosis or a failure to diagnose the condition; helping you pursue the financial restitution you deserve.
Are you a victim of misdiagnosed/missed diagnosed colon cancer? By answering these questions below, we may be able to determine if you have a case.
- What tests were administered? Did the doctor explain why that particular test was done?
- Was cancer detected in other parts of the body? Did the doctor test for that?
- Were you informed of the severity of the cancer? (what stage)
- What other tests could have been done?
- How do you know your results are accurate?
- Were the lab tests send to another facility?
- Where was the facility located?
- How do you know the information was relayed back to the doctor correctly?