Delayed diagnosis of colon cancer can result in the disease progressing to a more advanced stage causing a serious decline in the patient’s health or even a wrongful death. When a doctor’s negligence results in a delayed colon cancer diagnosis and the patient suffers harm, a medical malpractice lawsuit may be brought.
When Delayed Detection Qualifies as Medical Malpractice
Medical malpractice occurs when medical care providers such as doctors neglect to treat patients and adhere to provide an acceptable standard of care. Doctors are liable for any negligence on their part that results in harm to a patient. The standards in place for patient care also apply to colorectal screenings and diagnosis.
The Need for Colonoscopies
In 1997, the U.S. Agency for Health Care Policy and Research published colorectal screening guidelines for doctors in Gastroenterology, a reputable medical journal. The guidelines, titled “Colorectal Cancer Screening: Clinical Guidelines and Rationale,” laid the groundwork for recommendations that doctors should make regarding when and how to test for colon cancer. The guidelines were developed according to patient symptoms with the intention of screening for colon cancer early, before it has a chance to develop. Since the guidelines’ initial publishing, updates have been made, but this is an example of the standards in the medical profession that doctors are expected to know about. Ordinarily, doctors should be able to provide the necessary testing and answer questions, or direct patients to specialists who may be able to provide more thorough screening.
The primary testing method used to detect colon cancer is a colonoscopy. Even if a doctor tells a patient that rectal bleeding or other symptoms may be caused by another condition, patients should still ask for colonoscopies to rule out colon cancer. At the age of 40, colonoscopies are often recommended, or they may be ideal to have even earlier if the patient has a family history or other risk factors. Medicare and many health insurance companies cover colorectal screening costs.
If it’s discovered that a doctor failed to properly diagnose colon cancer or provide a test when initially needed or requested, and the patient suffers harm, medical malpractice lawyers may be able to help the victim recover compensation if he or she can prove that negligence took place.