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The Importance of Early Diagnosis: Colorectal Cancer

The second most common cause of cancer death in the U.S., colorectal cancer kills almost 50,000 people each year, but delays in diagnosis often happen. When there is a delayed diagnosis for colorectal cancer, people who have greater risks of death due to being in more advanced stages of cancer when the diagnoses are finally made. Delays in diagnosis may happen because of actions by the patients, failures by the doctors, or a combination of both. When doctors fail to order diagnostic tests despite knowing that their patients have histories of cancer or when they see obvious signs and symptoms that colorectal cancer may be present, the doctors may be liable for medical negligence. 

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A medical malpractice lawyer might review a patient's medical records to determine whether or not the delay resulted from negligence by the patient's doctor or from another cause.

Colorectal Cancer Statistics

When colorectal cancer is still localized to the colon or rectum, people who have it have a 90 percent chance of survival at five years post-diagnosis. Thirty-nine percent of people who are diagnosed with the disease still have localized cancers. People whose cancer is caught when it has spread to lymph nodes in the region but not beyond have a 71.2 percent chance of surviving five years, and 35 percent of people are diagnosed at the regional stage of colorectal cancer. When cancer has spread to distant areas of the body, it is at its most advanced stage. Twenty-one percent of people are not diagnosed with colorectal cancer until it has already metastasized, and they have a 13.1 percent chance of surviving five years. This clearly demonstrates the importance of early diagnosis.

Colorectal Cancer Symptoms

Colonoscopies are often not recommended by doctors for patients who are under the age of 60, but they may be indicated when they have symptoms that indicate that cancer may be present. Common symptoms of colorectal cancer include unexplained weight loss, bloody stools, severe abdominal pain, fatigue and changes in bowel movements. Patients who have these symptoms should tell their doctors regardless of their ages.

Why Delays Happen 

Many cases that involve delays in diagnosis of colorectal cancer happen in people who are younger than 60 because doctors don't order colonoscopies. Some delays happen because doctors fail to order further tests when there are abnormal screens or when doctors ignore symptoms. A medical malpractice lawyer may file a lawsuit for a client whose delayed diagnosed caused further harm. 

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