In this article, Robert G. Sullivan, Esq., a New York lawyer concentrating in the representation of patients injured by medical malpractice, describes colon cancer screening and its benefits to those at increased risk for the disease.
After lung cancer, colon or colorectal cancer is the second most common cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. Colorectal cancer is most prevalent in people over 50. Routine screening is considered the best means of reducing the mortality and morbidity produced by this disease.
Epidemiologic investigations have identified several risk factors for colorectal cancer, including: diets high in animal fats, hereditary polypoid diseases of the large intestine, inflammatory bowel disease and possible cigarette smoking.
Cancers of the colon are typically slow growing with patients going years without symptoms. As the tumor grows, it begins to bleed, eventually obstructing the intestinal lumen. Symptoms of an enlarging colon tumor include abdominal pain, fatigue and a change in stool size or caliber.
Because this form of cancer is generally incurable once it has spread to other organs of the body, and due to the lack of symptoms prior to the cancer becoming far advanced, routine screening, for small colonic tumors to permit their removal prior to the cancer becoming invasive and metastasizing, is considered the best means of reducing the mortality and morbidity produced by this disease. Several health care organizations, including the American Cancer Society and the World Health Organization recommend routine colon cancer screening beginning at age 50.
Screening is typically done in one of three ways: 1) annual digital rectal examinations, supplemented by chemical testing for occult rectal bleeding; 2) flexible sigmoidoscopy; and 3) colonoscopy. While no one form of screening is touted as the preeminent choice, it is recommended that you speak to your doctor about the best option for you if you are 50 or older. These screening tests can detect cancers and pre-cancerous lesions of the large intestine before they metastasize to other parts of the body. For this reason, screenings are often able to uncover cancer when the disease is at its earliest and most curable stages. The current standard of care calls for physicians to properly screen patients who qualify for screenings, and to perform a diagnostic search for a colonic neoplasm in any patient presenting with rectal bleeding.
If you or a loved one believe that a doctor failed to perform a necessary exam, resulting in a delay in diagnosis of cancer, be sure to obtain the proper medical care and if the instance arises in which contacting an attorney becomes necessary, be sure to contact a New York medical malpractice attorney with experience handling colon cancer cases.