Colon cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer deaths in the United States. Early detection is a crucial factor in the efficacy of treatment and the prognosis for people diagnosed with colon cancer. When doctors fail to diagnose this disease, the results can be catastrophic and even fatal.

Colon Cancer and Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer is a term used to refer to numerous cancers of the large intestine, which includes colon cancer. The two terms are often used interchangeably, but they are not exactly the same. They do, however, share some characteristics since colon cancer is a type of colorectal cancer. Many risk factors, screening methods, and symptoms are similar in colon and colorectal cancers.

Stages and Symptoms of Colon Cancer

Colon cancer is typically classified into five stages, numbered zero through four. The lower numbers represent earlier stages, and the higher numbers represent more progressed stages of the disease. In stages zero and one, the cancer has not spread beyond the inside of the colon. Stage two indicates that cancer may have spread to the outer layers of the colon or into nearby organs. In stage three, the cancer may be found in lymph nodes, as well as other organs and structures. Stage four is the most advanced stage of colon cancer, with the growth of cancerous cells and tissue in distant sites, like the lungs or liver, or into the peritoneum.

There are also other classifications, such as low-grade versus high-grade. Cancer progression and growth will look different for each patient, but advanced stages of colon cancer present a significant health risk for anyone suffering from this disease.

It is imperative that doctors identify the symptoms of colon cancer so their patients can receive the necessary care. Delayed colon cancer diagnosis creates a preventable risk to patients, so symptoms like the following should not be dismissed by healthcare providers:

  • Changes in bowel habits
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Abdominal pain
  • Unexplained weight loss

Symptoms like the above should usually prompt further testing and exams, one of which is a colonoscopy.

Delayed Colon Cancer Diagnosis and Colonoscopies

A colonoscopy is widely considered the most effective and reliable way to defend against colon cancer. This screening tool provides benefits like the detection and removal of polyps and the identification of the early signs of colon cancer.

It is recommended that people over the age of 45 get regular screenings, but this may be earlier for anyone with certain risk factors or a history of colorectal cancer. Doctors often recommend colonoscopies to investigate symptoms and signs of intestinal issues, especially if colon cancer is a possible cause of the symptoms.

Dangers of Delayed Colon Cancer Diagnosis

Early detection of colon cancer often leads to an increased chance of survival and successful treatment. A delayed diagnosis could mean a patient will need more aggressive treatment methods, additional surgical procedures or face a higher possibility of death.

A doctor’s negligence may be the cause of a delayed colon cancer diagnosis, and some examples include:

  • Dismissing or minimizing the patient’s symptoms
  • Ignoring the patient’s risk factors, like family medical history
  • Mishandling specimens
  • Reading test results incorrectly
  • Misdiagnosing a tumor as benign
  • Failing to refer the patient to a specialist
  • Choosing inappropriate treatment options that allow the cancer to grow or metastasize

Early screening and diagnosis of colon cancer often mean a better prognosis and increased survival rates.

If you did not have access to the treatment you needed because your doctor delayed your colon cancer diagnosis, you may be able to recover damages for the harm they caused. Reach out to D’Amico & Pettinicchi, LLC, to discuss your case with an experienced medical malpractice attorney. We offer free consultations, so contact us today to schedule your appointment.