Colon cancer is the second leading source of deaths from cancer. Each year, approximately 48,000 men and women will die because of colon cancer. Many of these fatalities could be avoided with early diagnosis and treatment through routine colon cancer screening before symtoms appear.
If the disease is detected as a small polyp in the course of a regularly scheduled screening test, like a colonoscopy, the polyp can usually be removed in the course of the colonoscopy. At this point, there is no requirement for the surgical removal of any portion of the colon. Once the polyp grows to the point where it becomes cancerous and gets to Stage I or Stage II, the tumor and a part of the colon on both sides is surgical removed. The relative 5-year survival rate is over ninety percent for Stage I and seventy three percent for Stage II.
If the cancer reaches Stage 3, a colon resection is not enough. The patient will, in addition, need to have chemotherapy. At this stage the chances that the individual will continue to be alive over five years after the diagnosis drops to 53%, depending on such variables as how many lymph nodes that have cancer.
As soon as the colon cancer reaches Stage 4, treatment might require undergoing chemotherapy and perhaps additional drugs as well as surgery on multiple organs. If the measurement and quantity of tumors in different organs (for example, the liver and lungs) are small enough, surgery on these organs might be the primary treatment, then chemotherapy. Sometimes the size or number of tumors in the different organs takes away the choice of surgery as a treatment.
If chemotherapy and other drugs can reduce the quantity and dimensions of these tumors, surgery might then become a viable follow up treatment. Otherwise, chemotherapy and other drugs (perhaps from clinical trials) might for a time halt or limit the continued progression of the cancer. With metastasis the person’s likelihood of outliving the cancer for more than five years after diagnosis is reduced to approximately 8%.
The statistics are clear. The time frame in which the cancer is found and treated results in a significant difference. If diagnosed and treated early, the individual has a high likelihood of surviving the disease. As detection and treatment is delayed, the chances start shifting from the person so that by the time the cancer reaches the lymph nodes, the probability is nearly 50/50. And the probability is reduced precipitously when the cancer gets to Stage IV.
But, too frequently doctors fail to recommend routine cancer screening to their patients. By the time the cancer is finally diagnosed – frequently because the tumor has grown so large that it is leading to blockage, because the person has inexplicable anemia that is worsening, or because the patient begins to detect other indications – the colon cancer has already advanced to a Stage 3 or even a Stage 4. The individual now faces a very different outlook than if the cancer had been diagnosed early by routine screening.
In medical malpractice terms, the person has suffered a loss of chance of a better recovery. In other words, because the doctor failed to recommend that the individual undergo routine screening test, the cancer is now much more advanced and the patient has a much lower chance of outliving the cancer. A doctor might be liable for malpractice if he or she does not suggest cancer screening to a patient who later is discovered to have metastatic colon cancer.
Contact an attorney right away should you feel your colon cancer was not diagnosed until it had already reached an advanced stage as a consequence of a physician’s not suggesting routine colon cancer screening. This article is for general educational uses only and is not intended to be legal (or medical) advice. For any health issues, consult with a doctor. If you think you might have a medical malpractice case you should seek professional legal counsel right away. A competent attorney experienced in handling cancer cases can help you determine if you have a claim for a delayed diagnosis colon cancer as a result of a failure on the part of a physician to recommend colon cancer screening. The law limits the amount of time you have to pursue a case so call a lawyer immediately.