Colon cancer is one of the most common causes of death in the United States. Fortunately, it is also one of the most preventable of all cancers. Why is that so? Because colon cancer is usually very slow growing and the sort of abnormal tissue or growths that might turn into cancer - usually called polyps - can often be detected on a colonoscopy well before cancer has developed.
The key to preventing or detecting colon cancer is the colonoscopy. For most people, doctors recommend that you get a colonoscopy after you turn age 50 and then once every ten (10) years after the first one. The colonoscopy is generally pain free and takes less than one-half hour to perform. The patient is in and out of the hospital in several hours.
During the procedure, the patient is sedated but is kept awake as the doctor inserts a tube with a camera on the end of it into the rectum and then guides it up through the colon. All the while, the doctor is looking for any abnormal tissue or polyps that might turn into cancer.
While colon cancer is easy to detect, patients must have the colonoscopy in order to find it. Many of the colon cancer cases we have handled have dealt with situations where doctors did not perform colonoscopies on patients who were having signs and symptoms suggesting that there might be something wrong in their colon. For example, if someone is having rectal bleeding, unusual diarrhea or other problems in their GI tract, it could be an indication that there is a problem in the colon. Under those circumstances, the doctor should not hesitate to order a colonoscopy.
If abnormal issue or polyps are discovered during a colonoscopy, usually the doctor can use a small cutting device at the end of the scope to snare the polyp and remove it. If it turns out that the tissue is cancerous, it would usually be necessary to return to surgery for a more extensive operation.
As mentioned, colonoscopies are usually pain free and easy to perform, but there are some risks with the procedure. The main one is the possibility that the scope will cause a tear in the colon as the doctor is advancing it upward. When that happens, the doctors should notice it and repair the tear right away. If that does not happen and the patient is sent home, they can develop further problems, and in those situations there may be valid grounds for a legal claim because the doctor did not discover the tear when it occurred.
Over the years, we have handled several cases involving a delay in diagnosing colon cancer which then may lead to a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the spouse or family of the patient. The best way to prevent a delay in diagnosing colon cancer is to make sure that people undergo colonoscopies and the doctors order them when they are necessary.