The likelihood is that vast majority of people who develop colon cancer are 50 or older. However, given the fact that colon cancer can kill physicians generally concur that rectal bleeding, even in someone under 50, needs to be investigated by a colonoscopy in order to establish the source of the bleeding. Merely assuming that the blood is the result of hemorrhoids may constitute malpractice. Too often physicians do not perform a colonoscopy or send the individual to a gastroenterologist when a person reports rectal bleeding or blood in the stool. Instead, these physicians just assume that the blood is due to hemorrhoids. This is particularly typical when the patient is less than 50.
Think about the following not uncommon situation. Specifically let’s focus on people who prior to turning fifty notice that they have blood in their stool. Maybe there are also other signs such as abdominal pain, pain that occurs during a bowel movement, constipation, loose stool or diarrhea. The person reports this to a doctor. Most physicians would acknowledge that blood in the stool could be from colon cancer and that this situation should trigger referring that person either to a gastroenterologist or for a colonoscopy. Sadly even now there are still those doctors who continue to diagnose these symptoms as due to hemorrhoids without as much as running any tests such as a colonoscopy to confirm that the person does not actually have colon cancer. These doctors often assure the patient that there is nothing to be worried about.
Unfortunately, a certain percentage of these people are subsequently diagnosed with metastasis, meaning that at that point is advanced given the delay caused by the doctor not performing any tests when the individual originally complained of blood in the stool. In time the person’s symptoms might become considerably worse. In a number of cases the patient might begin dropping weight without a change in their diet or in the amount of exercise they do or might develop anemia from the persistent loss of blood. In yet other cases the person might encounter obstruction and be unable to have a bowel movement. This may be very painful and may force the individual to go to the hospital. The issue is that by the time the symptoms turn out to be so severe that they can no longer be ignored and the cancer is finally diagnosed, it might have spread. The likelihood of surviving colon cancer after it spreads to other organs, like the liver, fall to less than 10%.
When a matter like this occurs and the individual either has to battle with metastatic cancer or dies due to the fact the cancer progressed so far that a cure was no longer possible due to the delay in diagnosis the surviving family may be able to bring a claim against the doctor responsible for the delay. The attorney will take a number of issues into consideration when evaluating whether to accept a potential claim. For instance, there are time limits (generally called Statutes of Limitations) that bar a plaintiff from succeeding on a claim if the plaintiff fails to file the claim in court (and take any other required actions within the prescribed amount of time. Additionally, the standard of care may be different depending on the jurisdiction. What constitutes an injury to the patient in cancer lawsuits also varies by jurisdiction. And clearly, the extent of the metastasis and the amount of delay makes a difference. If the delay was extremely brief, for example, it is probably going to be very difficult or even impossible to show that the cancer had not yet metastasized or that the person had a significantly higher probability of beating the cancer. Just what the prerequisites are to establish causation also varies from one jurisdiction to another. An skilled medical malpractice attorney can help the patient or the family determine if they have a claim.