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Colon Cancer Misdiagnosis Lawyer

A timely colon cancer diagnosis can mean the difference between life and death. While highly survivable in its early stages, this cancer is aggressive and can quickly become terminal. Physician negligence is often to blame. If you experienced harm after an untimely colon cancer diagnosis, our colon cancer misdiagnosis lawyers can help you recover substantial compensation.

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Colon cancer is one of the few preventable cancers, and if cancer does develop, it is one of the most survivable cancers when caught early. According to the American Cancer Society, the five-year survival rate is 91 percent as long as the disease has not spread. If allowed to spread to distant sites, the survival rate drops dramatically to 14 percent. 

The American Society of Clinical Oncology reports that colon cancer is the second deadliest form of the disease in the United States. Many of these deaths could have been prevented if the disease had been diagnosed during its precancer state or at an early stage.

Colon cancer misdiagnosis often results from medical negligence by a physician. Our cancer misdiagnosis lawyers are dedicated to holding negligent doctors accountable.

What Is Colon Cancer Misdiagnosis?

A colon cancer misdiagnosis occurs when a patient has the disease, but the doctor fails to diagnose it or diagnoses it as something else. Colon cancer may correctly be diagnosed later, but like most cancers, undiagnosed cancer will continue to grow and spread until it becomes difficult to treat and, in many cases, fatal.

When colon cancer is incorrectly diagnosed as something else, it prevents the disease from being diagnosed as early as it could have been. This failure can lead to one or more of the following potential consequences:

  • A missed opportunity to receive less invasive and more promising treatments 
  • Radical surgery, such as the removal of large sections of the colon
  • A higher risk of needing a colostomy bag
  • A more invasive systemic treatment regimen with debilitating side effects, such as chemotherapy 
  • A terminal diagnosis with no curative treatment options
  • Severe, progressive pain from the cancer spreading
  • Unnecessary treatment for a condition you do not have

Is Colon Cancer Misdiagnosis Medical Malpractice?

Medical malpractice, also known as medical negligence, requires each of the following elements:

  • You had a doctor-patient relationship.
  • The doctor breached the duty to provide a reasonable standard of care.
  • The breach of duty caused you to suffer an injury you would not otherwise have suffered.
  • The breach of duty, and not something else, was the cause of your injury.

A reasonable standard of care is the level of care expected from an equally qualified and prudent health care professional based on the available information at the time of the diagnosis.

A colon cancer misdiagnosis is very often a result of medical malpractice. Our colon cancer misdiagnosis attorneys at Levin & Perconti have handled thousands of medical malpractice cases. After a review of your doctor’s actions, we may be able to identify actions that did not comply with established medical standards.

Colon cancer may be misdiagnosed in patients in any age group, but it most commonly occurs in younger patients, according to an NBC news report. Patients younger than 50 often visit multiple physicians before receiving an accurate diagnosis. This gives the cancer time to reach an advanced stage.

Many of the patients in the study had more than one symptom, which should have raised concerns with their physicians. Many had known risk factors for colon cancer. These circumstances should have prompted the doctors to consider colon cancer, but they failed to do so. This may have resulted from false assumptions that colon cancer is an older person’s illness.

While such an assumption is understandable in a layperson, a medical doctor has a legal duty to use their training and expertise rather than make assumptions.

The Progression of Colon Cancer

Colon cancer progression is measured in stages according to the TNM system. TNM stands for the following:

  • Tumor – The size of the tumor
  • Nodes – Whether the tumor has spread to nearby lymph nodes
  • Metastasis – Whether the tumor has spread, or metastasized, to distant organs or lymph nodes

Colon cancer begins in the inner lining of the colon. It grows outward until it spreads into the nearby lymph nodes and ultimately to other body parts. The following layers  comprise the colon:

  1. The inner lining, or mucosa, which consists of the epithelium, connective tissue, and a thin muscular layer
  2. The submucosa, which is the fibrous tissue that separates the mucosa from the third layer
  3. Thick muscle layers
  4. The outer layers, known as the subserosa and serosa, which cover most of the colon

The survival rate of colon cancer decreases each time it progresses to a new stage. The stages of colon cancer include stages 0 to IV, with stage 0 being the earliest and stage IV the latest. Stages II through IV are further divided into sub-stages.

Pre-Cancer

Before cancer develops, polyps are often present inside the colon lining. The Mayo Clinic defines polyps as clumps of cells forming in the colon’s lining, which are generally harmless. 

However, polyps can sometimes become cancerous. When discovered, they can be safely removed, which prevents cancer. While they generally present without symptoms, some people experience the following:

  • Constipation or diarrhea that lasts longer than a week
  • Blood in the stool, which may appear as red streaks or black stools
  • Iron deficiency
  • Abdominal pain
  • Rectal bleeding

These symptoms may be signs of other conditions, but a reasonable doctor should not dismiss the possibility of polyps when diagnosing such conditions. A doctor should recommend and order screening tests, such as a colonoscopy, to rule out cancer or pre-cancerous polyps.

Stage 0 Colon Cancer

In this earliest stage of colon cancer, the tumor is present only on the inner layer of the colon with no evidence of spread. This stage is also known as carcinoma in situ or intramucosal carcinoma.

Stage I Colon Cancer

The tumor has grown into the submucosa and muscular layers of the colon, but the cancer has not spread to any lymph nodes or distant sites.

Stage II Colon Cancer

Colon cancer is classified as stage II when the tumor reaches the outermost layer of the colon. The tumor may grow through the colon’s wall and may have begun growing on other nearby organs or tissues. It has not spread to the lymph nodes. 

  • If the tumor reaches the wall without going through it, it is stage IIA. 
  • If the tumor grows through the wall, it is classified as stage IIB as long as it doesn’t reach other organs.
  • If the tumor has grown through the colon’s wall and attached to or grown into nearby tissues or organs without spreading to nearby lymph nodes or distant sites, it is classified as stage IIC.

As long as the tumor has not spread beyond the colon walls or to any nearby lymph nodes, the five-year survival rate is approximately 91 percent. This means 91 percent of patients diagnosed with colon cancer at this stage are still alive five years after diagnosis.

Stage III Colon Cancer

Stage III is an advanced stage of colon cancer, during which the cancer spreads to the lymph nodes. Unfortunately, many cases of colon cancer are not accurately diagnosed until after it reaches this stage. The five-year survival rate for patients diagnosed during stage III is 72 percent.

Stage IIIA

If the cancer has spread to one to three nearby lymph nodes or into areas of fat near the lymph nodes, it is classified as Stage IIIA. In some cases, the tumor may not yet have passed the muscular layers of the colon.

If the cancer has spread to four to six lymph nodes, but the tumor has not reached the muscular layers of the colon, it remains classified as stage IIIA. 

Stage IIIB

Colon cancer reaches stage IIIB when the cancer has spread to one to three lymph nodes or fatty areas surrounding the lymph nodes, and the tumor has grown into either of the following areas: 

  • The outermost layers of the colon
  • The lining surrounding the stomach 

Colon cancer is also classified as stage IIIB if it has spread to four to six nearby lymph nodes, and the tumor has grown into the muscular layers or the outermost layers of the colon or rectum. 

If the cancer spreads to seven nearby lymph nodes, whether the tumor is still in the inner layers or has grown into the muscular layers, it remains classified as stage IIIB colon cancer.

The cancer has not spread to distant sites during stage IIIB.

Stage IIIC

Colon cancer reaches stage IIIC when the following occur:

  • The tumor has grown through the wall of the colon or rectum, including the lining of the stomach but has not reached nearby organs. It has spread to four to six nearby lymph nodes.
  • The tumor has grown into the outer layers of the colon and spread to seven or more nearby lymph nodes but has not reached nearby organs.
  • The tumor has grown through the lining of the stomach, known as the peritoneum. It has spread to seven lymph nodes, but the tumor has not reached nearby organs.
  • The tumor has grown through the colon’s wall, attached to or grown into other nearby tissues or organs, and spread to at least one nearby lymph node or fatty area near the lymph nodes.

Stage IV Colon Cancer

Stage IV colon cancer is the most advanced stage, during which the cancer spreads to other organs in the body. Tragically, many cases of colon cancer are well into stage IV before they are diagnosed. 

Colon cancer diagnosed during this stage is more difficult to treat and is associated with a worsened prognosis. Colon cancer that has metastasized has a five-year survival rate of 14 percent.

Stage IVA

Colon cancer reaches stage IVA when cancer has spread to one distant organ or distant lymph nodes, whether or not it has spread to nearby lymph nodes or the tumor has grown through the colon’s wall. It has not yet spread to distant parts of the peritoneum.

Stage IVB

Colon cancer reaches stage IVB when it has spread to more than one distant organ or set of lymph nodes.

Stage IVC

Colon cancer reaches the most advanced stage when it has spread to distant parts of the peritoneum, regardless of whether the tumor has grown through the colon wall or spread to distant organs or lymph nodes.

Is Colon Cancer the Same Thing as Colorectal Cancer?

Colon cancer is a type of colorectal cancer. The term colorectal cancer refers to cancers of the colon and rectum, which follow similar progression and diagnostic criteria.

What Are the Risk Factors for Colon Cancer?

Doctors must be aware of the risk factors for colon cancer so that screening can be recommended at sufficiently frequent intervals to catch colon cancer early. According to the American Society of Clinical Oncologists, the risk of developing colon cancer is statistically higher for people with the following characteristics:

  • Age – The majority of colon cancer occurs in people older than 50, with an average age at diagnosis of 68 in men and 72 in women.
  • Race – Black men and women are more likely to contract colorectal cancer at an earlier age and generally have a worsened prognosis.
  • Gender – Men are slightly more at risk of developing colon cancer than women.
  • Family history – People with first-degree relatives—such as parents or siblings—who developed colorectal cancer have an increased risk of colon cancer, especially if the relative’s cancer was diagnosed before age 60.
  • Inherited conditions – People with Lynch syndrome and various polyposis syndromes are more likely to develop colon cancer.
  • Preexisting conditions – People with inflammatory bowel diseases, such as ulcerative colitis, some type of polyps, or Crohn’s disease, are more susceptible to colon cancer.
  • Cancer history – People with a history of colorectal, ovarian, or uterine cancer are more prone to colon cancer.

Lifestyle factors – People with a sedentary lifestyle, obesity, history of smoking, or frequent consumption of processed meats and red meat may face a slightly higher risk of developing colon cancer.

Can Colorectal Cancer Be Prevented?

The most significant risk factors for colon cancer, such as age, race, and family history, are beyond your control. However, you may be able to slightly reduce your risk by adopting the following habits:

  • Having regular screenings as recommended
  • Taking aspirin or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications
  • Managing your body weight
  • Being physically active
  • Consuming a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and low in red meat
  • Taking supplemental calcium and Vitamin D

Regular screening is the most important way to prevent colon cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends that people with an average risk begin colon cancer screening at age 45. It is a doctor’s responsibility to become familiar with your full medical and family history. 

This will ensure that you are offered screening at an earlier age if you are in a high-risk category. The two types of screening tests are stool tests and colonoscopies. Colonoscopies are more sensitive and are recommended if irregularities are discovered in stool-based tests. The most common stool-based tests include the following:

  • The fecal immunochemical test, which is performed annually
  • The guaiac-based fecal occult blood test, which is performed annually
  • A multi-targeted stool DNA test, which is performed every three years

The recommended schedule for colonoscopies is once every ten years for people with an average risk. People in higher-risk categories may require more frequent screening. 

Timely screening can make a significant difference in whether colon cancer is diagnosed during an early stage. This is why it is so important for your doctor to be familiar with your medical history. A patient cannot reasonably be expected to know their ideal screening schedule without the assistance of a competent doctor.

What Are the Symptoms of Colon Cancer

One of the reasons colon cancer screening is so important is that many patients do not experience symptoms until after the cancer has reached an advanced stage. Even when symptoms are present, they may be vague symptoms that could easily be confused with a less serious condition. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, colon cancer symptoms may include the following when they do occur:

  • Changes in stool consistency, including diarrhea or constipation
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Blood in the stools
  • Abdominal cramping, gas, or pain
  • A feeling of incomplete emptying of the bowels
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Unexplained weight loss

How Do Doctors Miss a Colon Cancer Diagnosis?

The dramatic difference in prognosis between the early and late stages of colon cancer and the ability to catch it before it develops make early diagnosis a priority. Unfortunately, doctors all too often fail to detect early. Misdiagnosis of colon cancer may stem from the following:

  • Failure to recommend regular screenings
  • Failure to take a complete medical history
  • Failure to recommend a colon cancer screening schedule that considers risk factors
  • Failure to monitor patients with inflammatory bowel diseases
  • Inaccurate interpretation of test results
  • Failure to follow up when test results are abnormal
  • Failure to screen for colon cancer when a patient reports symptoms
  • Failure to provide a referral or consult with a specialist

In many cases, colon cancer misdiagnosis occurs when a doctor brushes off a patient’s symptoms or makes assumptions about the patient or the symptoms because of personal biases or lapses in clinical judgment. Our medical malpractice attorneys have extensive experience identifying diagnostic negligence by health care providers.

Why Should I Trust Levin & Perconti to Handle My Colon Cancer Misdiagnosis Case?

Our nationally recognized medical malpractice lawyers have over 200 years of combined experience helping injured patients hold negligent doctors accountable for harming patients. 

We are one of the top five Illinois law firms for total settlements, with more than a billion dollars recovered since our founding in 1992, as recognized by Jury Verdict Reporter. We have negotiated more settlements over $500,000 than any other law firm in the state for ten years in a row.

We provide our clients with personalized, compassionate service, and we are unafraid to take on challenging cases or take a case to trial. We charge no fees until after we win, and the initial consultation is free and confidential. You risk nothing by contacting our law firm.

How Much Compensation Can I Recover in a Colon Cancer Misdiagnosis Lawsuit?

The compensation available through a cancer misdiagnosis lawsuit varies based on the extent of your injuries. We have obtained such case results as the following for clients harmed by cancer misdiagnoses:

  • $14 million record verdict against a doctor and hospital for ignoring abnormal chest X-ray results, causing a substantial delay in the diagnosis of lung cancer
  • $12 million record jury verdict for failing to diagnose lung cancer in a woman who died three years after a chest X-ray showed abnormalities that were never disclosed to her
  • $8.1 million medical malpractice verdict on behalf of a family whose mother died of lung cancer as a result of a failure to diagnose
  • $2.3 million settlement with a laboratory that misread a pap smear, resulting in misdiagnosed cervical cancer that killed a 35-year-old mother of three
  • $950,000 settlement against a physician whose failure to biopsy a known breast tumor resulted in a delayed diagnosis of breast cancer and caused death
  • $630,000 settlement over a physician’s failure to perform an annual pelvic exam, resulting in the untimely diagnosis of ovarian cancer
  • $500,000 settlement over a physician’s misinterpretation of a 59-year-old’s prostate hormone levels and failure to refer the patient to a urologist, causing a nine-month delay in the diagnosis of prostate cancer

These results include the following types of damages, which may also be available to you in a medical malpractice action:

  • Economic damages – Compensation for monetary losses, such as medical expenses and lost wages
  • Non-economic damages – Compensation for pain and suffering and other effects on life that are harder to quantify

What If a Colon Cancer Misdiagnosis Caused My Family Member’s Death?

If your loved one has tragically died because of a colon cancer misdiagnosis, your family may be entitled to recover substantial compensation in a wrongful death lawsuit

Wrongful death damages may include the following economic and non-economic damages:

  • Medical expenses of the deceased
  • Pain and suffering of the deceased
  • Grief and suffering of the family
  • Funeral expenses
  • Loss of companionship
  • Loss of guidance, support, and training
  • Loss of comfort
  • Lost income of the deceased

A colon cancer misdiagnosis lawyer at Levin & Perconti can calculate the compensation your family may be able to recover in a wrongful death lawsuit.

Who Is Liable for a Colon Cancer Misdiagnosis?

In medical malpractice cases, any health care provider who contributed to the misdiagnosis can be sued, including the following:

  • Doctors
  • Physician assistants
  • Nursing staff
  • Laboratories
  • Hospitals
  • Pharmacists

When Should I Contact a Lawyer?

It is important to contact an experienced colon cancer misdiagnosis lawyer as soon as possible after you realize you were misdiagnosed. Illinois limits the time to file a medical malpractice lawsuit to two years from the date of the injury or the date you discovered the injury. This time limit is known as the statute of limitations

Although the law provides a two-year filing deadline, you should not wait to contact an attorney. Preparing a strong medical malpractice case requires a detailed investigation and thorough preparation before the case can be filed. Early involvement is crucial to ensure we can give your case the time and attention necessary to get the results you deserve.

Our adversaries widely acknowledge our record of success, and we leverage this reputation to maximize compensation. Contact us today for a free consultation.

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