When Doctors Misdiagnose Colon Cancer

Colon cancer (also known as colorectal cancer) is the second deadliest type of cancer in the U.S.—affecting both men and women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This is why it is important that people over the age of 50, as well as younger people who experience symptoms of colon cancer, get screened on a regular basis. If colon cancer is found at an early stage, the survival rate is high. But the sad reality is that sometimes colon cancer is misdiagnosed, allowing it to progress and advance too far.

How Is Colon Cancer Misdiagnosed?

Some ways in which colorectal cancer may be misdiagnosed by medical professionals include:

  • Signs and symptoms are missed. Doctors may miss the signs of colon cancer in women because it is often thought to be a man’s disease. This is why many women are misdiagnosed, even though they may experience several signs of colon cancer such as stomach discomfort, abdominal pain, changes in stool, rectal bleeding, weight loss, weakness, and more. Also, colon cancer usually affects an older population, which is why some doctors may disregard the seriousness of certain symptoms in younger people.
  • Tests aren’t ordered. When someone experiences symptoms of colon cancer, a doctor should order a colonoscopy screening (which is a procedure that inserts a tiny video camera into the rectum to identify colon cancer), or a CT colonography scan (a computerized tomography that uses radiation to take pictures of a person’s colon). Sometimes tests aren’t ordered when they should have been.
  • Test results aren’t read correctly. A doctor may misread the test results or get the results mixed up with another patient’s results. Also, a lab technician may make an error when conducting a rectal blood test, or a radiologist may have made an error and failed to read the scan properly.

If a doctor was negligent and failed to take a patient’s signs and symptoms seriously, failed to order the appropriate tests, or failed to read the test results correctly, a patient has grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit. Many people who end up having colon cancer have been misdiagnosed with diverticulitis, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, or ulcerative colitis. Unfortunately, any amount of time cancer isn’t treated allows it to grow and progress. This is why a misdiagnosis can be deadly, as the cancer can metastasize and advance to the next stage.

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