When it comes to colon cancer there are particular risk factors which ought to lead a doctor to test the patient for the existence of the cancer. The primary procedure used by physicians to check for colon cancer when a patient has a family history or reports a symptom, like blood in the stool, is the colonoscopy. With this method doctors can visualize the interior of the colon and look for abnormal (and possibly cancerous) growths. Aside from testing individuals who are at a higher risk level, doctors also ordinarily suggest that asymptomatic men and women who are 50 or older undergo routine screening in order to locate any cancer that may be growing in the colon before it reaches an advanced stage.
If the physician performing 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 that a physician might not complete the colonoscopy is inadequate prior preparation resulting in inadequate visualization or the existence of an obstruction which makes it impossible to pass the scope beyond the region of the obstruction. If situations like these happen the doctor ought to inform the patient and recommend that the individual either undergo an alternative procedure or a repeat colonoscopy. Not doing so could lead to a missed cancer which might grow and progress to an advanced stage prior to being found.
This is what occurred in a published case involving a 54 year old woman who passed away from metastatic colon cancer. The first risk factor her physicians knew about was a family history of cancer of the colon. Throughout the length of six years, physicians performed three colonospies on this patient. In that time the woman informed the doctor that she experienced rectal bleeding and abdominal pain frequently. Besides these 2 symptoms, her physicians, on at least one occasion, additionally noted that she had a third symptom of colon cancer – she had anemia.
The paperwork from 2 of the colonoscopies highlighted that there was incomplete visualization of the ascending colon and cecum as it was not possible to take the scope beyond the transverse colon. However, the doctor who carried out the three colonoscopies and followed her throughout this period continued stating to the woman that her symptoms were because of hemorrhoids.
The Patient was finally diagnosed with colon cancer when her tumor was detected while she was undergoing exploratory surgery to establish the cause of her symptoms. The cancer had grown and spread so far that she needed to have a considerable percentage of her intestines removed and then also needed to endure treatment with chemotherapy. Regrettably, despite treatment she died from the cancer. Her family went forward with a wrongful death lawsuit against the physician for the failure to diagnose her cancer and to notify her that the results of the colonoscopies were not definitive. The law firm handled the matter was able to document that they were able to get a recovery for the family in the sum of $875,000
Physicians employ diagnostic tests as a way to detect or rule out certain diseases. For instance, the colonoscopy is a procedure used to search for or exclude colon cancer. But 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 visualize the inside of the colon in order to find out whether there are polyps or tumors in the colon
When the full colon is not visualized, as in the lawsuit previously mentioned, a physician cannot depend on it to exclude cancer. If the patient does have cancer this could result in a delay in diagnosis that allows the cancer time to grow and progress to an incurable stage. Under such circumstances the physician who counted on such a partial procedure might be liable under a medical malpractice or even wrongful death claim.