Colorectal cancer is a type of cancer that develops in the inner lining of the intestines or in the lower part of the colon. The colon and rectum are a part of the large intestines, which aids in the body's process of digestion.
Colorectal cancer is usually a slow growing cancer that typically develops as pre-cancerous polyps- or clusters of cells- in the lining of the large intestine. These polyps may not be cancerous when they first develop, and will not cause any symptoms until they become cancerous. If the polyps are allowed to continue to grow and are not removed by either a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy some may become malignant i.e. turn into colon cancer. Colorectal cancer may become incurable once the disease has metastasized or spread outside the intestine. Thus it is important for doctors to use early detection measures if someone begins to show any signs of colon cancer, which are further discussed below. If a patient is at risk of colon cancer or exhibiting any signs or symptoms that could be indicative of colon cancer it is imperative to intervene. Medical Groups advocate that anyone over the age of 50 should be regularly screened for colorectal cancer - some even suggest earlier screening for patients that have a family history of this disease. Luckily, if colon cancer is caught early the survival rates are very favorable.
However, when doctors fail to properly diagnose and treat colorectal cancer, the consequences can be fatal. If you or a loved one believe that you have been injured by a doctor's negligence though a failed colorectal cancer diagnosis or through mistreatment, contact our offices today for a free consultation.
Colorectal Cancer Statistics
- Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths for both men and women combined
- In 2015, there will be an expected 93,090 new cases of colon cancer and 39,610 new cases of rectal cancer.
- There will be an expected 49,700 deaths from colorectal cancer in 2015.
- About 95% of all colorectal cancer cases are adenocarcinomas- or cancer that originates from polyps in the mucous glands of the colon and rectum.
- Screening and diagnostic techniques are advancing for colorectal cancer, allowing doctors to find and remove polyps before they turn cancerous. This means that, today, there are over 1 million survivors of colorectal cancer in the United States.
- If caught early, colorectal cancer has a survival rate of up to 92%.
Symptoms and Risk Factors
Although colorectal cancer is slow growing and often doesn't show symptoms until advanced stages, doctors should be aware of the risk factors and early symptoms associated with this cancer and should order the proper diagnostic tests to detect it.
Risk factors of colorectal cancer include:
- Being over 50 years of age, and being male (it is slightly more common in men than women)
- Personal or family history of inflammatory condition in the intestines Irritable bowel syndrome or IBS, Ulcerative Colitis and Crohns Disease
- A family history of colorectal cancer
- Having a diet high in fat and low in fiber
- Smoking tobacco
Medical studies have clearly proven that detecting colorectal cancer or pre-cancerous polyps early saves lives. Polyps that develop in the intestine start as benign, but could turn cancerous over time. Early detection and screening colonoscopies allow doctors to find and remove these polyps before they can cause serious injury.
Symptoms of colorectal cancer include:
- Blood in your stool
- Narrow Stools
- Problems with bowel movements- or feeling that your bowel won't empty completely
- Feeling bloated- or having cramps
- Fatigue and weight loss
Diagnosing Colorectal Cancer
If colorectal cancer is suspected, your doctor should begin an appropriate screening and diagnostic process. Initially, your doctor will need to understand your full medical history, including your family medical history, and will need to complete a full physical examination. Further screening and diagnostic tests may include:
- Colonoscopy, a procedure in which the doctor uses a thin flexible scope with a lens to see up and inside the entire colon.
- Sigmoidoscopy, a procedure in which only the lower portion of the colon is screened
- Digital rectal exam— a finger exam of the patient's rectum to detect cancer around the rectum.
- Biopsy, a procedure during which a tissue sample is obtained for examination.
The American Cancer Society recommends regular screenings for colorectal cancer in people over the age of 50. Their recommendations include:
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years
- Colonoscopy every 10 years
- Double-contrast barium enema every 5 years
- CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy) every 5 years
Doctors may also order a fecal occult blood test to screen for blood in stool samples. To see the American Cancer Society's full screening recommendations, visit their website here. Your doctor should be aware of these recommendations and should inform you of them.While these tests seem invasive and some feel they are undignified those fears and your vanity are not worth the risk of letting colon cancer go undetected. A colonoscopy is really simple and safe procedure conducted under sterile conditions with medical professionals who perform them routinely. Typically the test are performed on an outpatient basis under a very mild anesthetic and you will be home having dinner with your family after they are completed.
Colorectal Cancer Treatment
If one of the screening modalities discovers colorectal cancer, your doctor will need to assess the stage of the cancer to appropriately choose a treatment plan. Treatments may include surgically removing polyps, or using radiation or chemotherapy to destroy cancer cells. Lymph nodes around the cancerous tumors may be sampled to detect whether the cancer has metastasized or spread to other part of the body. Treatment generally depends on the location and the size of the cancerous tumor.
Malpractice in Colorectal Cancer
It is the responsibility of doctors and other medical professionals to provide reasonable and prudent care consistent with the applicable medical standards of care. Failing to provide medical care that is in conformity with the standard of care in the medical profession can have devastating effects, especially in colorectal cancer cases as you can see from the statistics above. There are many colorectal cancer deaths that are wholly preventable but doctors fail to head the warning signs that a patient has exhibited.
If doctors fail to know the risk factors and symptoms, fail to recommend screening tests like colonoscopies, misread screening test results, misread symptoms (like assuming rectal bleeding is caused by another source like hemorrhoids), misreads the pathology or mishandles treatment options, or fail to properly follow up, they are putting their patients at risk for further harm.
Sometimes, doctors and medical professionals provide the best level of care, and still make mistakes. A bad outcome alone is not necessarily indicative of negligence. Patients have a medical malpractice case only if their doctor acted unreasonably/negligently in diagnosing and/or treating their condition and, that negligence resulted in serious harm for the patient.
The attorneys at Gilman & Bedigian have an excellent track record with medical malpractice cases and handling the misdiagnosis of colorectal cancer cases. They understand the intricacies of these cases so you don't have to. We have a medical professional on staff to provide counsel in medical malpractice cases so that you can have an edge in litigation.
If you believe that you or a loved one's colorectal cancer has been misdiagnosed by a health care provider, contact Gilman & Bedigian today for a free consultation and learn more about your legal options.