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Why doctors often misdiagnose colon cancer

On Behalf of | Nov 10, 2023 | Medical Malpractice

The accurate and timely diagnosis of colon cancer is important for effective treatment and improved patient outcomes. However, it is not uncommon for doctors to misdiagnose this type of cancer.

When doctors misdiagnose or fail to diagnose cancer in a timely manner, it can have serious consequences and a significant impact on a patient’s prognosis.

Overlapping symptoms

Common symptoms of colon cancer, such as abdominal pain, changes in bowel habits and rectal bleeding, can result from a wide range of ailments, including irritable bowel syndrome, hemorrhoids or diverticulitis. Doctors may initially consider these less serious conditions, leading to a delay in diagnosing colon cancer.

Lack of screening or risk assessment

Colon cancer often develops silently in its early stages, without overt symptoms. Many individuals may not undergo regular screenings, such as colonoscopies, especially if they are not in high-risk groups. As a result, doctors may not consider colon cancer as a possibility until it reaches an advanced stage, when symptoms become more apparent. Delayed diagnosis at an advanced stage can reduce treatment options and decrease the chances of a full recovery.

Medical errors and communication breakdowns

In some cases, medical errors, including misinterpretation of test results, communication breakdowns among healthcare providers or insufficient follow-up, can contribute to the misdiagnosis of colon cancer. These errors may cause doctors to overlook important information, which can further delay proper diagnosis and treatment.

Per NBC News, 67% of patients diagnosed with colon cancer had to see two or more physicians before they received accurate diagnoses. Some patients had to see as many as four doctors before finding out what was ailing them. This indicates that medical providers must do more to increase early diagnoses and improve the outcomes of patients with this type of cancer.