NJ Lawyers Handling Failure to Diagnose Colon Cancer Cases

Fighting for New Jersey victims when colorectal cancer is misdiagnosed

Colorectal cancer is cancer located in the lower part of the digestive system. Colon cancer refers to cancer in the large intestine, while rectal cancer refers to cancer of the rectum (the last few inches of the colon). These two cancers are usually grouped into the category of colorectal, or colon, cancer.

Colon cancer is an abnormal growth of cells within the colon. Typically, must colorectal cancers begin with growths of benign polyps – non-cancerous cell clusters that form along the wall of the colon. These polyps may develop into colon cancer over time, remaining in the colon or spreading throughout the body. Once this type of cancer has spread, it’s extremely difficult to treat and likely fatal.

Colon cancer is often misdiagnosed because its symptoms often mimic other gastrointestinal conditions, like irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, or ulcerative colitis. Doctors must order diagnostic tests in order to properly identify colon cancer.

A cancer misdiagnosis can cause a delay in treatment that may cause cancer to spread, resulting in great harm or death to the patient. The medical malpractice attorneys at Eichen Crutchlow Zaslow, LLP have the skill and experience to hold the negligent parties responsible.

Symptoms of colon cancer

Unfortunately, colon cancer may not cause symptoms right away. This is why screenings and exams are so important. When colon cancer does show symptoms, the American Cancer Society lists the following:

  • A change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea, constipation, or narrowing of the stool, that lasts for more than a few days.
  • A feeling that you need to have a bowel movement that’s not relieved by having one.
  • Rectal bleeding with bright red blood.
  • Blood in the stool, which may make the stool look dark.
  • Cramping or abdominal (belly) pain.
  • Weakness and fatigue.
  • Unintended weight loss.

Colon cancers often bleed into the digestive track. Sometimes the blood can be seen in the stool, making it look darker but still normal. However, this blood loss can build up over time and cause a low red blood cell count (also called anemia). Anemia can sometimes be the first sign of colorectal cancer.

Risk factors for colon cancer

Researchers are unsure of the exact cause of colon cancer. Genes may play a role, but age and lifestyle may make a larger impact. Risk factors for colon cancer include:

  • Alcohol. Consuming more than one alcoholic drink per day increases the risk of colon cancer.
  • Smoking. Carcinogens from tobacco smoke can cause nearly any type of cancer.
  • Race. African-Americans are more likely to develop colon cancer than other races.
  • Diabetes. Insulin resistance can increase the risk of colorectal cancer.
  • Age. Colon cancer can occur at any age, but the vast majority develops in patients age 50 and older.
  • Lifestyle. An inactive lifestyle, like sitting at a desk or computer all day, raises the risk of colorectal cancer. Diets with high-calorie intake and high in animal fat can also increase the risk. (Health professionals typically recommend diets high in fiber and low in fats and red meat.) Finally, obesity can increase the risk of colon cancer being fatal.
  • Family or personal history. If a patient’s or family member’s medical background includes polyps or colon cancer, this increases the likelihood of polyps. It also increases the likelihood of polyps developing into cancer.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBS). Inflammatory conditions of the colon, like ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, increases the risk of colon cancer.
  • Radiation. Some research suggests that radiation therapy for previous cancers in the colorectal area (such as testicular cancer) can put a patient more at risk for colon cancer.

Doctors aware of any risk factors should appropriately screen their patients for colon cancer.

Treatment options for colorectal cancer in NJ

Treatment for colon cancer depends on the stage, size, and location of the cancer. However, common treatments include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.

There are many cancer treatment centers in New Jersey, including Memorial Sloan Kettering, Rutgers Cancer Institute, Steeplechase Cancer Center, Saint Peters University Hospital, and The Cancer Center at Shore Medical Center.

When your doctor fails to diagnose colon cancer

Doctors have several tests available to screen patients for colon cancer. These diagnostic tools include:

  • Fecal occult blood test
  • Colonoscopy
  • Sigmoidoscopy
  • Virtual colonoscopy
  • Double contrast barium enema

These tests can all indicate the presence of colon cancer, but it’s also important which test a doctor chooses. Using the appropriate test is a vital part of correctly diagnosing a patient’s colon cancer. A physician may choose one test over the other for various reasons, including age, medical history, or whether sedation is necessary. Sometimes a doctor may have to perform a different type of test if the results of a first one weren’t clear.

A physician may be negligent if he or she fails to order one of these tests after noting a patient’s symptoms, misreads test results, or doesn’t order a second test when the results from the first were unclear or called for further investigation.

Carelessness or negligence at any point in the colorectal cancer screening process can lead to a misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose colon cancer while it’s still in its early stages. Delay of treatment may cause the cancer to spread, making it much more difficult to treat or even survive.

If you find yourself suffering from changes in your bowel health, talk to your physician immediately. Have you already spoken to your doctor about these symptoms and felt ignored, and later received a colon cancer diagnosis? Reach out to one of our NJ medical malpractice attorneys to explore your options.

Our New Jersey failure to diagnose cancer attorneys can help

Medicine is not an exact science, but that doesn’t excuse a doctor from negligence on the job. When a physician fails to diagnose or misdiagnoses you or a loved one’s colorectal cancer, the lawyers at Eichen Crutchlow Zaslow, LLP fight on your behalf. We will work to secure you the compensation you’re entitled to. We have offices in Edison, Red Bank, and Toms River. Call us at 732-777-0100 or fill out our contact form to set up a consultation today.