Misdiagnosed Colon Cancer Attorneys in Pittsburgh
Experienced Local Lawyers Fighting for Victims of Medical Malpractice Throughout Pittsburgh, Western Pennsylvania and Beyond
Excluding skin cancers, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women in the United States. The American Cancer Society estimates that about 110,000 new cases of colon cancer and 40,740 new cases of rectal cancer will be diagnosed each year. Overall, the lifetime risk for developing colorectal cancer is about 1 in 19 (5.4%). This risk is slightly higher for men than for women.
Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States. According to the American Cancer Society, 49,960 people are expected to die in 2008 from colorectal cancer.
Risk Factors for Developing Colon Cancer
The risk factors for developing colorectal cancer include the following:
- Age (more than 90% of all diagnosed colorectal cancers involve people over 50 years old);
- Prior history of colon polyps (particularly if the polyps were large or there were many of them);
- Prior history of colon cancer (particularly if you had your first colon cancer when you were younger than 60);
- Prior history of inflammatory bowel disease (including ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s Disease but excluding irritable bowel syndrome);
- Family history of colon cancer (up to 20% of people who develop colon cancer have a family history of the disease);
- Inherited genetic susceptibility to colon cancer (e.g., familial adenomatous polyposis or hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer, a.k.a. Lynch syndrome or Peutz-Jeghers syndrome);
- Racial and ethnic background (for reasons that are not yet fully understood African Americans have the highest colorectal cancer incidence and mortality rate of any racial group in the United States);
- Life style-related factors (diet high in red meats and/or processed meats; physical inactivity; obesity; smoking; heavy alcohol usage; type 2 diabetes).
Colon Cancer Symptoms
The symptoms of colon cancer include:
- Change in bowel habits lasting more than a few days (e.g., diarrhea, constipation, narrowing of stool)
- Feeling like you need to have a bowel movement which is not relieved by having a bowel movement
- Rectal bleeding, dark stools, or blood in the stool
- Cramping or abdominal pain
- Weakness, fatigue, or unexplained weight loss
If you have any of these symptoms, you should see a doctor right away.
What to Expect When You Go to the Doctor
If you go to your doctor with any of the symptoms associated with colon cancer, you should expect your doctor to take a careful medical history to check for other symptoms and for your risk factors. Your doctor should also perform a physical examination in which he/she feels your abdomen looking for masses or enlarged organs. Your doctor may also perform a digital rectal examination. Your doctor may also order certain blood tests to look for anemia and colon cancer tumor markers (CEA). You doctor may order a fecal occult blood test. Your doctor may also refer you for a sigmoidoscopy, a colonoscopy, a barium enema, or a CT colonography (A.K.A. “virtual colonoscopy”).
The Importance of Biopsies in Diagnosing Colon Cancer
If a suspected colon cancer is found by way of any of these diagnostic tests, a biopsy should be performed via colonoscopy. In a biopsy, the doctor will remove a small piece of tissue from the suspected area of your colon or rectum. This small piece of tissue will then be evaluated under a microscope by a special doctor called a pathologist. While other tests may raise a suspicion of colorectal cancer, a biopsy is the only way to know for sure that colon cancer is present.
Role of Colon Polyps
Although not all colorectal polyps become cancerous, colon cancer nearly always starts out as a polyp. The two most common types of colon polyps are hyperplastic polyps and adenomatous polyps, also called adenomas. Hyperplastic polyps rarely become cancerous. Adenomatous polyps are more likely to become cancerous as they grow. The larger an adenomatous polyp grows, the greater chance it has of becoming cancerous.
Diagnosis of Colon Polyp?
If you have been diagnosed with a colon polyp, here are some things to keep in mind. As noted above, most colon cancer arises out of adenomatous polyps. The larger the adenomatous polyp, the greater the chance that polyp will turn into colorectal cancer. Therefore, to protect against the risk of colorectal cancer, large (greater than 1 cm. in diameter) adenomatous polyps should be removed as soon as possible. Many large adenomatous polyps are on a stock. Polyps on a stock are called pedunculated polyps. Other large adenomatous polyps are not on a stock and lie flat against the colorectal wall. These are called sessile polyps. As a rule, pedunculated polyps are far easier to remove during a colonoscopy than are sessile polyps. Therefore, if you have been diagnosed with a large adenomatous sessile polyp, you may need surgery to ensure the complete removal of the polyp.
Contact Our Pittsburgh Malpractice Attorneys Today!
At Berger & Lagnese, LLC, our attorneys have had a great deal of experience handling and winning colon cancer cases due to medical malpractice. If your colon cancer was missed or misdiagnosed or not diagnosed when it should have been, our lawyers will investigate your case, interview doctors, nurses and the hospital involved, hire the top experts to review your medical care, and we will find out what really happened. Contact us today to learn about your legal options.