When it comes to several cancers like colon cancer there are well-defined recommendations and guidelines for the tests to conduct when a person has certain symptoms. In cases where a doctor does not comply with these guidelines and the person does have cancer which ultimately ends up spreading from the resulting holdup in detecting the cancer, that physician might be liable for medical malpractice. To illustrate such a scenario look at the following documented lawsuit.
At the time the patient in this matter commenced treating with his primary care physician the physician conducted a full physical examination and documented his findings of both internal and external hemorrhoids. The doctor recorded that the patient had bleeding from the rectum occasionally. The doctor failed to do any more testing to check for the presence of blood in the man’s stool or to determine the source of the bleeding. Also, despite the fact that the individual was fifty years old at the time, the physician did not send the patient for a sigmoidoscopy or a colonoscopy in order to screen for colon cancer.
After 2 years, having experienced a number of days of abdominal pain the man went in to the urgent care department at his doctor’s office. The nurse who conducted the examination put an entry in his record that she found occult blood in the man’s stool during a guiaic test. When the man returned to check in with the doctor for the results of the examination but the physician did not do anything about the positive finding of blood in the stool. The doctor did however recommend that the patient undergo a screening sigmoidoscopy and referred him to a gastroenterologist.
The gastroenterologist performed the sigmoidoscopy as requested by the primary care physician instead of a full colonoscopy. The gastroenterologist only examined up to 35 cm and noted merely hemorrhoids none of which were bleeding but failed to determine the source for the earlier finding of blood in the stool.
Two years later, the patient was again seen by the internist this time for bloating of the abdomen. As the internist performed a physical examination of the patient he was able to feel an a mass on the liver and ordered a CT scan which found large masses present both in the liver as well as the colon:. Now the internist at last sent the patient for a colonoscopy which found colon cancer. By then however, the patient had stage IV colon cancer which was so advanced that surgery was no longer an option. The patient began treating with chemotherapy but died just over a year following his diagnosis.
A lawsuit was pursued against both physicians by the family of the patient. The law firm that represented the family announced that they were able to obtain a settlement in the amounts of $1,500,000 on behalf of the man’s family.
This matter illustrates why it is so important to do proper tests for symptoms that raise the suspicion of colon cancer. Specifically when a patient has blood in the stool physicians usually concur that a colonoscopy rather than a sigmoidoscopy ought to be performed to rule out cancer. By doing only a sigmoidoscopy in this instance the doctors failed to check the full length of the patient’s colon and hence wrongly eliminated colon cancer as a possible source for the blood. This ended in a two year holdup in the detection of the patient’s cancer. The law firm that handled this case on behalf of the man’s family no doubt had medical experts ready to offer testimony that had this delay not happened the man’s cancer would not have metastasized and the individual would have survived after treatment.