People with a family background of colon cancer and additionally individuals with symptoms are at increased risk of getting colon cancer. The main procedure employed by physicians to test for colon cancer if an inidividual has a family history or is complaining of a symptom, such as blood in the stool, is the colonoscopy. With this method doctors are able to see the inside of the colon and look for abnormal (and possibly cancerous) growths. In addition to testing people who are at an increased risk level, physicians also typically advocate that asymptomatic people who are 50 or older undergo routine screening in order to discover any cancer that may be developing in the colon before it reaches an advanced stage.
In case the doctor conducting the colonoscopy is unable to look at the full span of the colon it is feasible that there might be cancer present in the sections that were not examined. Among the reasons why a doctor might not finish the colonoscopy is inadequate prior preparation resulting in inadequate visualization or the presence of an obstruction which makes it impossible to pass the scope beyond the area of the obstruction. When situations like these occur the doctor should tell the patient and recommend that the individual either undergo an alternative procedure or a repeat colonoscopy. A failure to do so may lead to a missed cancer which can grow and progress to an advanced stage before it is detected.
Examine, as an example, one published lawsuit involving a 54 year old female who passed away from advanced colon cancer. The first risk factor her doctors knew about was a family history of cancer of the colon. Throughout the length of six years, physicians performed 3 colonospies on her. In that time the woman described that she observed rectal bleeding and abdominal pain frequently. Besides these two symptoms, her physicians, on at least one occasion, also noted that she had a third symptom of colon cancer – she had anemia.
In this case, the doctor who performed the colonoscopies in fact documented, with respect to two of them, that visualization was incomplete in both the ascending colon and the cecum. The physician additionally recorded that this was the situation due to the fact that there was a problem in passing the scope beyond the transverse colon. Sill, the doctor who performed the 3 colonoscopies and followed her throughout this period continued assuring her that her problems were due to hemorrhoids.
She was eventually diagnosed with colon cancer when her tumor was detected during exploratory surgery so as to uncover the cause of her problems. The cancer had grown and spread so far that the patient had to have a significant part of her intestines taken out and then had to undergo chemotherapy. Unfortunately, despite treatment she passed away from the cancer. As a result of the physician’s failure to follow up on her symptoms in light of two incomplete colonoscopies the womans family filed a lawsuit. The law firm handled the lawsuit was able to document that they acheived a settlement of $875,000 on behalf of the family.
Physicians use diagnostic tests in order to find or exclude particular diseases. For instance, the colonoscopy is employed to find or exclude colon cancer yet the result of the test is only as good as the accuracy with which the test was conducted. A colonoscopy employs a scope to see the interior of the colon to check if there are polyps or tumors in the colon
In the event that the whole colon is not visualized, as in the claim previously mentioned, a physician cannot count on it to exclude cancer. In the event that the patient does have cancer this might lead to a delay in diagnosis that allows the cancer time to grow and progress to an incurable stage. In a situation like that the doctor who counted on a partial procedure may be liable.