Last Updated on May 28, 2024

Can I Sue If I've Been Diagnosed with Rectal Cancer late?

If your late cancer diagnosis was caused by medical negligence, you may have enough grounds to sue and file for a medical malpractice claim. Late diagnosis can result from various medical errors and personal patient lapses. However, to properly establish such a claim, your legal team would need to investigate your case first. 

Rectal cancer is a severe and potentially life-threatening condition. The trajectory of this disease is generally dictated by the stage wherein it is diagnosed in. At its earlier stages, rectal cancer is a highly treatable disease. At stage 4, however, survival rates plummet. Early detection is the most crucial step battling this type of cancer.

In 2024, about 46,220 new cases of rectal cancer are expected in the US. This disease is more likely to develop in men than in women. 

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Can Rectal Cancer be Misdiagnosed?

Misdiagnosis rate for rectal cancer is relatively high. A recent report suggests that patients in more advanced stages are more likely to be diagnosed with another disease. Those in earlier stages on the other hand are often diagnosed correctly.

Additionally, it was found that:

  • Nearly half (47.7%) of the 568 patients in the study were misdiagnosed due to medical errors or misjudgments.
  • Patients with rectal cancer who experienced bloody stools had a higher chance of being misdiagnosed.
  • Younger patients, particularly those under 40 years old, were more likely to be misdiagnosed than older patients.
  • Younger patients also experienced longer delays in receiving the correct diagnosis and tended to have more advanced tumors at the time of diagnosis compared to older age groups.

Keep in mind that late diagnoses that lead to patient harm may constitute medical malpractice. Healthcare providers who performed poorly or negligently can always be held liable. 

How Long Can Someone Live with Rectal Cancer?

The life expectancy of someone with rectal cancer depends on various factors, including the stage of the cancer at diagnosis, the patient's overall health, and response to treatment. Here's a general breakdown of rectal cancer survival rates based on the stage the disease was diagnosed in:

STAGE5-Year Relative Survival Rate
Localized (Stage 1 or 2)90%
Regional (Stage 3)74%
Distant (Stage 4)18%

It's important to note that these are general statistics and do not predict any individual's outcome. Some people with advanced rectal cancer may live much longer than these estimates. Whereas others with early-stage cancer may have shorter survival times due to other health factors.

What Can Rectal Cancer be Diagnosed As?

Negligent medical providers could diagnose patients suffering from rectal cancer with the following less severe conditions:

HemorrhoidsSwollen veins in the rectum or anus can cause rectal bleeding, pain, and itching. They may also lead to a feeling of incomplete bowel movements.
Anal fissuresSmall tears in the lining of the anus can cause pain, bleeding, and difficulty with bowel movements.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)Conditions like Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis can cause diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloody stools, and weight loss.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)This condition can cause changes in bowel habits, abdominal pain, and bloating, but typically does not cause bloody stools or weight loss.
DiverticulitisInflammation of small pouches in the colon can cause abdominal pain, fever, constipation, or diarrhea.
Colorectal polypsPolyps are growths on the lining of the colon or rectum that can cause rectal bleeding. While most polyps are benign, some can develop into cancer if not removed.
InfectionsGastrointestinal infections caused by bacteria, viruses, or parasites can lead to diarrhea, abdominal pain, and fever.
Chronic constipationPersistent difficulty with bowel movements can cause abdominal pain and a feeling of incomplete evacuation.

The conditions stated above share similar characteristics to earlier signs of rectal cancer such as:

  • 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 might make the stool look dark brown or black
  • Cramping or abdominal (belly) pain
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Unintended weight loss

Like most other cancers, the initial symptoms of rectal cancer can be vague. As such, unsuspecting doctors may be led to believe that their patient has nothing to worry about – when in fact they actually have cancer.

Treatment Options and Annual Spending

Treatment options for rectal cancer depend on the stage and location of the cancer, the patient's overall health, and personal preferences. Conventionally speaking, the main treatment options for rectal cancer include:

In many cases, a combination of these treatments is used to provide the best possible outcome. Palliative care may be recommended to manage symptoms and improve quality of life for patients with advanced or metastatic rectal cancer. This can include pain management, nutritional support, and emotional support for both patients and their families.

With the need for complementary treatments, medical expenses for treating rectal cancer can quickly pile up. When estimating the annual spending of cancer patients, three distinct phases are acknowledged – initial care, continuing care, and end-of-life care. Annual spending for colorectal cancer treatment follows:

Medical ServicesPrescription Drugs
Initial Care (1st year after diagnosis)$66,524$416
Continuing Care (time in between)$6,246
per year
per year
End-of-Life Care (last year before passing away)$110,144$1,353

All medical expenses (past and future) are accounted for in all medical malpractice claims. Apart from medical bills, other economic and non-economic losses are also factored in – lost income, emotional trauma, and decreased quality of life are some of the more common inclusions. Please refer to our previous wins for actual cancer misdiagnosis compensation figures.

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Establish Your Claim for Compensation

To validate a claim, medical malpractice experts collaborate with reliable medical consultants to identify and confirm four key elements during a preliminary investigation. These key elements are as follows:

Duty of Care – Was there an appropriate doctor-patient relationship?
Breach of Duty – Did your doctor perform poorly/negligently based on accepted standards of care?
Causation – Did your doctor’s actions/inactions directly cause you harm?
Damages – What did these errors cost you?

Apart from establishing your claim, the responsibilities of your cancer malpractice lawyer include gathering pieces of evidence, officially filing your case, and negotiating for your compensation.

Speak to a Medical Malpractice Lawyer Today

At the Porter Law Group, our team of proven medical malpractice lawyers delivers ideal results. We take pride in helping families rebuild after unfavorable circumstances.  We operate on a contingency basis – meaning you do not need to pay us anything unless we win your case. Through this approach, we can better support families during their times of need.

If you or a loved one has been a victim of medical malpractice, please reach out to us for a non-obligatory free case evaluation. You can also contact us at 833-PORTER9 or to schedule a consultation.

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 May 28, 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 May 28, 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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