It is estimated that less than one percent of those diagnosed with colon cancer are younger than thirty-five. But, given the lethal nature of the disease physicians generally agree that the presence of rectal bleeding, even in a patient under 35, needs to be investigated by a colonoscopy to verify if the bleeding is a result of cancer or a different reason. Just supposing that the blood is caused by hemorrhoids does not meet the standard of care.
Consider what took place in a reported case regarding a woman who told her primary care physician that she noticed blood in her stool and experienced pain during bowel movements. She was just twenty four. The physician, justwithout even conducting an examination, told her to take a laxative after diagnosing her with diarrhea and other bowel issues. The woman went back after 4 months claiming she had constipation, pain and problems sitting. Now the physician at last examined her yet assured her she had hemorrhoids. His treatment: an enema. The woman saw that doctor two more times and every time was told that she merely had hemorrhoids and she had nothing to be concerned with.
She needed to be hurried to an emergency room because of severe pain seven months after her initial visit to her primary care physician. They set her up for a colonoscopy at which time she was diagnosed with advanced colorectal cancer. The woman underwent surgery (which because of the how far the cancer had advanced included not just taking out part of her colon but also of her uterus and a portion of the lower intestines). She then needed chemotherapy. She subsequently had a recurrence and passed away from the cancer less than 3 years after. She was survived by her husband and daughter, a minor.
The law firm that handled this lawsuit revealed that the case went to trail and the jury awarded the family a sum of $2,500,000. The verdict included the maximum of $350,000 permitted for pain and suffering by the law of the State where the doctor practices. The remainder of the award was for future lost wages. This lawsuit is just one example of what could be the most common medical mistake concerning a delay in the diagnosis of colon cancer.
Too often doctors do not perform a colonoscopy or refer the patient to a specialist when a patient complains of rectal bleeding or blood in the stool. Rather, these doctors simply assume that the symptom is due to hemorrhoids. This is particularly common if the person is less than fifty years old.
If a matter such as the one described above occurs and the patient passes away for the reason that the cancer progressed due to the delay in diagnosis the surviving family might be able to bring a lawsuit against the physician responsible for the delay.