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Can Colon Cancer Be Misdiagnosed?

March 09, 2021
Pittsburgh colon cancer misdiagnosis

Colon cancer refers to cancers that develop in the large intestine or in the rectum, typically from polyps, which are collections of cells that have the potential to lead to cancer. This is why colon cancer screening is critical, so that polyps can be identified and monitored before they develop into colon cancer. 

Each year, approximately 140,000 new cases of colorectal cancer are diagnosed. Colorectal cancer also results in roughly 50,000 deaths per year. If caught at an early stage, the prognosis of treatment is often very positive, with high five-year survival rates. This makes prompt diagnosis of colon cancer critical to patient survival. Continue reading to find out how colon cancer can be misdiagnosed.

How Is Colon Cancer Diagnosed?

Colorectal cancers are diagnosed through a number of testing methods, including:

  • Stool sample testing, which involves laboratory testing of stool to look for signs of cancer, such as blood, precancerous polyp tissue, or other DNA changes indicative of cancer. 
  • Colonoscopy, a procedure in which a flexible tube with a video camera at the end, called an endoscope, is inserted through the rectum to visually examine the rectum and colon for any abnormal conditions or other signs of colon cancer, such as inflammation, bleeding, polyps, or abnormal tissue.
  • CT scan, which can be a less-invasive alternative to a colonoscopy, that uses radiation imaging to create a model of a patient’s colon, which may reveal abnormalities that indicate the presence of colon cancer.

Frequent Misdiagnosis in Colon Cancer Cases

Colon cancer can present with various symptoms, including diarrhea or constipation, changes in stool, bleeding, gas, cramps, or other abdominal pain, fatigue, and unexplained weight loss. However, these symptoms also show up in other gastrointestinal conditions. As a result, colorectal cancer can be misdiagnosed as one of these other conditions, including:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome, which also presents with abdominal pain, fatigue, and appetite loss.
  • Diverticulitis, which results from growths in the digestive tract that become inflamed or infected and cause symptoms like severe abdominal pain, bleeding, and changes in bowel habits. 
  • Ulcerative colitis, a chronic inflammatory bowel disease that has no known cure, and which has symptoms including cramps, unexplained weight loss, and rectal pain and bleeding.
  • Hemorrhoids, a condition in which veins in the rectum become infected and swollen, causing pain and bleeding.

If these conditions fail to respond to treatments, that is usually a sign that a patient should consult with a colon cancer specialist for a second opinion. 

Read more: Everything You Need To Know About A Cancer Misdiagnosis In PA

Why Is Colon Cancer Misdiagnosed?

Physicians may fail to timely and correctly diagnose colon cancer for many different reasons, such as:

  • Failure to include colon cancer in the differential diagnosis, especially for younger patients who tend to have lower rates of colon cancer compared to older people
  • Failure to order proper testing, such as stool screening or colonoscopy
  • Failure to order follow-up testing if an initial diagnosis does not respond to treatments
  • Errors in laboratory testing, or misinterpretation of laboratory results
  • Errors during colonoscopy, including not using the most advanced endoscopes that can reveal hidden areas of the colon where polyps or abnormal tissue may be located
  • Failure to consult with or refer patients to colon specialists.

Contact A Medical Malpractice Attorney for a Consultation About Your Cancer Misdiagnosis Case in Pennsylvania

Were you or a loved one injured due to medical malpractice in Pennsylvania? Then you need to talk to an experienced medical malpractice lawyer as soon as possible for guidance on how to proceed. The Pittsburgh cancer misdiagnosis attorneys at Berger & Lagnese, LLC are prepared to assist you with your legal claim. We represent victims of negligent surgeons, doctors, nurses, and pharmacists throughout Pennsylvania, including Indiana, New Castle, Uniontown, and Washington. Call us today at (412) 471-4300 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a consultation. Our main office is located at 310 Grant St., Suite 720, Pittsburgh, PA 15219.

The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.

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