Colon and rectal cancer screening and misdiagnosis medical malpractice attorney/lawyer

March 2018 is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer, excluding skin cancers, diagnosed in the United States. It is the second leading cause of cancer death, and is expected to cause over 50,000 deaths in 2018.

The overall lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer is about 1 in 22 for men and 1 in 24 for women. These statistics show why the medical community has made such a colorectal cancer screening, which is resulted in a drop in the death rate from this type of cancer over the last several decades.

With appropriate colorectal cancer screening, polyps are often found earlier and removed before they can develop into cancers. Even for cancerous polyps, they are frequently identified at an earlier stage when treatment is more effective. Based on more screening and earlier diagnosis and treatment, there are now over one million colorectal cancer survivors in America.

Risk factors

The risk factors for colorectal cancer include family history, personal history, age, smoking, being overweight or obese, physical activity, certain diets (high in red meat, processed meats, and certain types of fats), heavy alcohol use, and Type 2 diabetes.

African-Americans and Jews of Eastern European descent have a heightened risk of developing colorectal cancer.

Recommended screening

Generally speaking, screening refers to looking for a disease before there are any symptoms of it. When performing colorectal cancer screening, doctors look for signs of polyps, which are a growth of abnormal cells. Once a polyp forms, it usually takes 10 to 15 years to develop into colorectal cancer.

Medical experts currently recommend screening beginning at the age of 50 for individuals who do not have any increased risk factors for developing colorectal cancer.

There are a variety of colorectal cancer screening tests available, including colonoscopy, fecal immunochemical testing (FIT), stool blood test (fecal occult blood test, FOBT), flexible sigmoidoscopy, barium enema with air contrast, and virtual colonoscopy (CT colonography).

Each test has a different recommendation for how often it should be repeated.

Your physician may have a preference or recommendation on which test is best for you.


As a Houston, Texas medical malpractice attorney, I have represented many clients whose lives were changed because their doctors misdiagnosed different types of cancer. In my experience, colorectal cancer is one of the most often misdiagnosed types of cancer.

From the cases that I have handled, misdiagnosis more frequently occurs when a patient is being evaluated for symptoms consistent with colon cancer, as opposed to just going to the doctor for a routine screening.

According to the Mayo Clinic, signs and symptoms of colon cancer include:

• A change in your bowel habits, including diarrhea or constipation or a change in stool consistency, that lasts longer than four weeks

• Rectal bleeding or blood in the stool

• Persistent abdominal discomfort, such as cramps, gas or pain

• A feeling that the bowels do not empty completely

• Weakness or fatigue

• Unexplained weight loss

As you might recognize, the symptoms are also consistent with other diseases or disorders, including things like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), diverticulitis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and even hemorrhoids.

In order to properly evaluate a patient with non—specific signs and symptoms of this nature, the standard of care requires the physician to use the differential diagnosis process. This requires the doctor to form a list of all potential diagnoses that could explain the signs and symptoms, and then order diagnostic testing or conduct an examination to rule out each potential diagnosis, starting with the most dangerous one.

Unfortunately, some physicians get rushed and skip important safety steps. Sometimes this leads them to rush to a conclusion to make the wrong diagnosis. A delay in making the correct diagnosis or failure to diagnose colorectal cancer, allows the patient’s cancer to continue to develop, even to the point of causing death.

We are here to help

As we observe 2018 Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, I hope that patients will consider the need to get screened and healthcare providers will remind themselves to follow the differential diagnosis method that helps improve patient safety.

If you or a loved one has been seriously injured because of medical malpractice, including misdiagnosis of cancer, call the experienced medical malpractice attorneys at Painter Law Firm, in Houston, Texas, at 281-580-8800, for free consultation about your potential case.


Robert Painter is an attorney at Painter Law Firm, in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who files medical malpractice and wrongful death lawsuits against hospitals, doctors, surgeons, and other healthcare providers. He is a frequent speaker and author on topics related to healthcare and medical malpractice. He previously served as the editor-in-chief of The Houston Lawyer magazine, and currently serves on the editorial board of the Texas Bar Journal.

Robert Painter
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Robert Painter

Robert Painter is an award-winning medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm Medical Malpractice Attorneys in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits all over Texas. Contact him for a free consultation and strategy session by calling 281-580-8800 or emailing him right now.