Last Updated on May 17, 2024

Can I Sue If I've Been Diagnosed with Colon Cancer Late?

Patients may be eligible to sue medical staff if their colon cancer is diagnosed late. Colon cancers refer to cancer that begins in the colon, which is the longest part of the large intestine. However – due to shared risk factors, symptoms, treatment options, and their proximity – it is often grouped with rectal cancer. Colorectal cancer is the broader term used in most primary resources for simplicity.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), less than 35% of all colorectal cancers are found at an early stage – despite having various screening tests available. With age being the highest risk factor for the disease, only 70% of adults aged 50 to 75 are routinely screened for colon cancer as of 2020.

Apart from medical options, this article will also discuss some legal considerations for medical malpractices related to colon cancer.

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Colon Cancer Misdiagnosis

In a 2019 study analyzing 2155 diagnostic error claims, researchers found common primary care errors that lead to cancer misdiagnosis. Such errors include:

  • Misdiagnosis of test results – occurred in 46% of all cases studied. This error is common for breast, prostate, lung, and colorectal cancers.
  • Lapses in clinical judgment – occurred in 76% of all cases studied. This includes failure to prescribe necessary diagnostic tests; and failure to provide timely referrals.

Through the study, it was also found that 85% of misdiagnosed patients were subjected to high-severity harm. In a nutshell, this means that these patients suffer permanent, life-altering consequences. A doctor’s misdiagnosis allows cancer to progress – making treatments more challenging and effectively lowering a patient’s life expectancy.

While colon cancer has an overall 5-year relative survival rate of 63%, let’s study a patient’s survival rate based on what stage their colon cancer was caught. Notice how the survival rate drops when colon cancer is caught at its later stages.

STAGE5-Year Relative Survival Rate
Localized (Stage 1 or 2)91%
Regional (Stage 3)72%
Distant (Stage 4)13%

For at-risk patients, standard screening procedures are done regularly to catch the disease early.  According to CDC, these standard screening tests include: 

  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy: A short, lighted tube is inserted into the rectum to check for polyps or cancer in the rectum and lower third of the colon. It is done every 5 years or every 10 years with a FIT annually.
  • Colonoscopy: Similar to flexible sigmoidoscopy but examines the entire colon. Polyps and some cancers can be removed during the procedure. It is done every 10 years for people without increased risk.
  • CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy): Uses X-rays and computers to produce images of the entire colon for analysis. It is done every 5 years.

Again, failure to diagnose cancer and failure to prescribe necessary tests constitute medical malpractice

Common Symptoms of Colon Cancer

The earliest symptoms of colon cancer include: 

  • Change in bowel habits;
  • Presence of blood in your stool;
  • Diarrhea or constipation;
  • Feeling unsatisfied after bowel movements;
  • Recurring abdominal pains/cramps; and
  • Weight loss.

The earliest symptoms of colon cancer are noticeably vague. It also shares these symptoms with other gastrointestinal conditions (i.e., Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, stomach virus, etc.). As such, it is sometimes downplayed by patients and doctors alike – getting attention only when symptoms are worse and more persistent.

Treatment Options per Stage

Several effective treatments are available for affected individuals – with more complementary options for later stages of colon cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, these treatments include:

Colon Cancer StageTreatment Options
STAGE 0Local excision or polypectomy
Resection and anastomosis
STAGE 1Resection and anastomosis
STAGE 2Resection and anastomosis
STAGE 3Resection and anastomosis
Clinical Trials
STAGE 4Local excision
Resection and anastomosis
Radiofrequency ablation / cryosurgery
Radiation therapy
Clinical trials

Latest figures from the CDC have indicated the average medical spending of individuals diagnosed with cancer. These expenses are outlined below:

  • 1st Year Following the Diagnosis: $66,500
  • Continuing Care: $6,200 annually
  • Final Year (year before death): $110,100

Colorectal cancer is the 2nd most expensive type of cancer to treat.

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Legal Consequences and Compensation

Apart from medical expenses, legal compensation for medical malpractice victims also factor in lost wages, emotional damages, and diminished quality of life. As such, make sure that you only work with seasoned medical malpractice lawyers – for they are also responsible for settlement negotiations down the line.

Before a medical malpractice claim can proceed, your legal counsel would perform an extensive initial investigation. This investigation aims to establish the following key factors:

Duty of Care Was there an appropriate doctor-patient relationship?
Breach of DutyWhat actions/inactions from your doctor constitute malpractice?
CausationDid these mistakes directly cause you harm?
DamagesWhat did you lose as a result (all aspects of life considered)?

In 2023, approximately 10,172 medical malpractice claims were reported to the National Practitioner Data Bank. The average compensation for these claims amounted to $408,339.56 per claim. However, do note that these figures include minor incidents also.

Please check out our previous wins for more concrete figures on cancer malpractice compensation.

Speak to a Medical Malpractice Lawyer Today

We take pride in helping families rebuild from unfavorable circumstances. We stick by our clients until the end – our rapport extends even after gaining courtroom success or reaching a settlement that favors our client. If you have any questions regarding cancer misdiagnosis, please reach out for a no-obligation, free consultation.

You may also contact us at 833-PORTER9 or to schedule an appointment. If you are looking to pursue further legal action, we operate on a contingency basis – meaning you don’t have to pay anything unless we win.

Written By
Michael S. Porter
Personal Injury Attorney
Originally from Upstate New York, Mike built a distinguished legal career after graduating from Harvard University and earning his juris doctor degree from Syracuse University College of Law. He served as a Captain in the United States Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps, gaining expertise in trial work, and is now a respected trial attorney known for securing multiple million-dollar results for his clients while actively participating in legal organizations across Upstate NY.
Legally Reviewed on April 5, 2024
Eric C. Nordby
Personal Injury Attorney
Eric, with nearly three decades of experience in personal injury litigation, holds a law degree with honors from the University at Buffalo School of Law and a Bachelor's Degree from Cornell University. His extensive career encompasses diverse state and federal cases, resulting in substantial client recoveries, and he actively engages in legal associations while frequently lecturing on legal topics.
This Article Was Professionally Reviewed
This page was Legally Reviewed by Eric C. Nordby on April 5, 2024. Our experts verify everything you read to make sure it's up to date. For information on our content creation and review process read our editorial guidelines. If you notice an error or have any questions about our content please contact us.
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