Colon cancer is the second leading cause of deaths from cancer. Every year, about 48,000 people will die from colon cancer. Many of these fatalities would be avoided with early diagnosis and treatment through standard colon cancer testing of asymptomatic men and women.
When the disease is located while it is still a small polyp in the course of a routine screening test, such as a colonoscopy, the polyp can usually be taken out during the colonoscopy without the need for the surgical removal of any portion of the colon. Once the polyp grows to the point where it becomes cancerous and gets to Stage I or Stage II, the tumor and a portion of the colon on each side of the tumore is surgical removed. The relative 5-year survival rate is over ninety percent for Stage I and seventy three percent for Stage 2.
If the disease reaches a Stage III, a colon resection is not enough and the patient also needs to undergo chemotherapy. The relative 5-year survival rate falls to fifty three percent, depending on such factors as the quantity of lymph nodes that contain cancer.
As soon as the colon cancer gets to the fourth Stage, treatment might call for the use of chemotherapy and perhaps additional drugs and even surgery on various organs. Should the measurement and number of tumors in different organs (like the liver and lungs) are sufficiently few, surgery on these organs may be the first treatment, then chemotherapy. In some cases the dimensions or quantity of tumors in the different organs eliminates the option of surgery as part of the treatment.
If chemotherapy and different drugs can reduce the number and size of these tumors, surgery might at that point become an option as the second form of treatment. If not, chemotherapy and different drugs (possibly through clinical trials) might temporarily halt or reduce the ongoing progression of the cancer. The relative 5-year survival rate falls to approximately 8%.
As the relative 5-year survival rates show, the time frame wherein the colon cancer is diagnosed and treated makes a dramatic difference. If found and treated early, the individual has a high likelihood of outliving the cancer. As diagnosis and treatment is delayed, the odds begin shifting against the person so that once the colon cancer reaches Stage 3, the percentage is nearly 50/50. Further the chances decrease precipitously when the colon cancer gets to Stage 4.
However, too frequently doctors do not advise routine cancer testing to their patients. By the time the cancer is finally diagnosed – sometimes due to the fact that the tumor has become so large that it is causing blockage, because the individual has inexplicable anemia that is worsening, or because the individual starts to detect other symptoms – the colon cancer has already advanced to a Stage 3 or even a Stage 4. The patient now faces a much different outlook than he or she would have if the cancer had been discovered early through standard screening tests.
Attorneys who handle cancer cases often refer to this as a “loss of chance” of a better recovery. That is to say, since the doctor did not recommend that the patient have a routine screening test, the cancer is now considerably more advanced and the person has a much reduced likelihood of surviving the cancer. A doctor might be liable for malpractice if he or she fails to propose cancer screening to a patient who subsequently is discovered to have metastatic colon cancer.
Contact an attorney right away if you feel there was a delayed diagnosis of colon cancer because a doctor’s failure to recommend routine colon cancer screening. This article is for general informational uses only and should not be considered legal (or medical) advice. For any health concerns your should contact a doctor. Should you suspect you may have a medical malpractice case contact a lawyer right away. A competent attorney with experience in handling cancer cases can assist determine whether you have a claim for a delay in the diagnosis of colon cancer due to a failure on the part of a doctor to recommend colon cancer screening. There is a time limit in cases like these so call a lawyer immediately.