With regards to colon cancer there are some risk factors which should lead a doctor to check the person for the presence of the cancer. The main procedure used by doctors to test for colon cancer if a patient has a family history or is complaining of a symptom, such as blood in the stool, is the colonoscopy. Using this method doctors can see the inside of the colon and look for the presence of abnormal (and possibly cancerous) growths. In addition to testing individuals who are at an increased risk level, physicians also ordinarily recommend that asymptomatic people who are fifty or older have routine screening in order to detect any cancer that might be developing in the colon before it reaches an advanced stage.
If the physician conducting the colonoscopy cannot look at the full length of the colon it is possible that there might be cancer present in the unvisualized areas. One of the reasons why a physician might not finish the colonoscopy is poor prior preparation resulting in inadequate visualization or the presence of an obstruction which makes it impossible to pass the scope beyond the region of the obstruction. When circumstances such as these occur the physician ought to notify the patient and recommend that the individual either undergo an alternative procedure or a repeat colonoscopy. A failure to do so may result in a missed cancer which might grow and progress to an advanced stage prior to being found.
One medical malpractice claim that was documented involved a woman who died of colon cancer in her mid forties due to the fact that her cancer was not discovered until it was at an advanced stage even though her physicians for years had information that she was at high risk. The first risk factor her doctors knew she had was a family history of cancer of the colon. During the length of six years, physicians did three colonospies on her. On many occasions she kept letting her physicians know that she was having pain in the abdomen and that she found blood in her stool. At a minimum, on one occasion the woman’s blood tests also exhibited that she was anemic. The 3 are possible symptoms of colon cancer.
In this case, the doctor who carried out the colonoscopies in fact recorded, with respect to 2 of them, that visualization was incomplete in both the ascending colon and the cecum. The physician further recorded that this was the situation because there was a problem in passing the scope past the transverse colon. Nonetheless, the physician who performed the 3 colonoscopies and followed the patient throughout this period continued stating to her that her problems were caused by hemorrhoids.
She was finally diagnosed with colon cancer when her tumor was found as she was undergoing exploratory surgery in order to determine the cause of her problems. The cancer had grown and spread so far that she had to have a considerable fraction of her intestines removed and then had to undergo chemotherapy. Sadly, even with treatment she died from the cancer. As a result of the physician’s failure to order additional testing to determine the source of her symptoms given that there were 2 incomplete colonoscopies the woman’s surviving family pursued a claim. The law firm that hekped the family in this lawsuit was able to document that they acheived a settlement of $ 875,000 on behalf of the family.
Physicians use diagnostic tests so as to detect or rule out certain diseases such as specific kinds of cancers. For example, the colonoscopy is a procedure used to search for or rule out colon cancer yet the result of the test is only as good as the exactness with which the test was carried out. For the procedure a doctor inserts a scope to examine the inside of the colon to find out whether there are any polyps or tumors in the colon
If the total colon is not visualized, as in the claim above, a doctor cannot rely on it to rule out cancer. Doing so makes about as much sense as only listening to one of your lungs, examining only one of your eyes, or ordering only part of a complete blood count. When the patient does have cancer this might result in a delay in diagnosis that gives the cancer time to grow and progress to an incurable stage. Under such circumstances the doctor who counted on such a partial procedure might be liable under a medical malpractice or even wrongful death claim.