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Malpractice Lawsuits - Missed Detection

markatger's picture
Posts: 315
Joined: Feb 2005

I'm newly diagnosed with rectal cancer at age 33. Am going through a lot of frustration about how I and others missed detecting the cancer earlier, which I imagine is pretty common.
Interested in anyone's views on seeing lawyers at some point. My priority, of course, should be treating my cancer, but I guess I need to vent some about the "only ifs".
I went to my primary physician around 6 or 7 years ago because I had blood in my stool. She did a brief visual inspection with some kind of instrument and told me that I just had hemmorhoids. I sat in her office for a long time questioning her about it, but was dismissed.
My tumor that was found last week is fairly large. If she had done a sigmoidoscopy then, she may have seen at least some pre-cancerous growth.
I ignored blood in my stool for years. Last year I began having more blood and IBS type symptoms (urge to go often, cramping). I went to primary physician asking for a referall to see a gastroenterologist. I was basically denied the referal and put on IBS medicine.
A 3 cm tumor was found last week and today they saw a golf ball size mass in my liver, but it hasn't been confirmed as cancer.
Well, probably shouldn't spend too much energy on this now, but if anyone has had experience with lawyers and malpractice I would appreciate hearing about it.

Posts: 259
Joined: Nov 2004

I had a similar series of events as you, only I was referred to a GI doc right away, with my first blood/IBS symptoms, ten years ago. He did a sigmundoscopy (which wouldn't have caught any precancerous growth in my case, because my cancer was high up towards the illium.) For the next ten years my symptoms continued to be ignored by him and, after he retired, a second GI specialist. They thought it was hemmorhoids and irritable bowel. The only thing that caught the cancer for me was that I finally turned 50 and had a routine colonoscopy. They then found a big tumor, spread to six lymph nodes, and Crohn's disease. It's infuriatiing.

I certainly wish they'd done a colonoscopy sooner. I don't think what I experienced is exactly malpractice, because I think the standard practice is to igmore this stuff, right? And now I feel I need my strength to heal and part of that is staying positive, not becoming mired in anger and "what ifs". But I wonder what other people think...

kerry's picture
Posts: 1317
Joined: Jan 2003

We all become angry when we are diagnosed with colorectal cancer and start thinking of the "what ifs". If only the doctor had done this, if only the doctor had really listened to me, etc.... I went through the same stage as you and did infact contact an attorney who specialized in malpractice cases. I also had a similar situation as you.

I had a sigmoidoscopy when I turned 50, but it did not show anything because my cancer was in the ascending colon (cecum). I never had any evidence of blood, but did have what they called IBS. I went to my GYN and told her that I was always tired and asked her for a blood test. Incidently, no doctor ever did a fecal blood occult test. My blood work came back that I was anemic and the doctor said that we would just "watch it". Well, no one watched it.

Eight months later I was really feeling awful and went to an internist and requested a blood test and told her that I was anemic. She argued with me that I looked "too good" to be anemic, but would do a blood test, if I insisted. Well, it came back VERY anemic and then finally she did a fecal blood occult test. Then my life changed dramatically. So I too was very angry.

You feel like the people you give total control for your life, your doctor, will take care of you, but you are let down.

No, I did not sue, even though the attorney said we probably could. But I do now take total control of my health and medical decisions. I read everything I can and insist on tests. I always read my lab results and question my doctors. I found my recurrance, after an argument with my oncologist who insisted that I did not have a recurrance. I am now going to another facility for treatment.

Take charge and be responsible for yourself. Bottom line is that NO ONE else will do it for you, unless you are fortunate to have a doctor that really cares. Most are so busy that when you walk out the door, you are forgotten. Know what tests you can have, know what symptoms to look for, but most of all, you must get over your bitterness and anger. Start fighting right now to beat this disease and turn all your energies toward that.

We all have been where you are after diagnosis. But we are all right here together now and we'll help each other beat the beast. Let us know how you are doing, but stay connected with this site and ask questions, soak in the knowlege of others and take control of your health.

Sorry this is so long.


Kanort's picture
Posts: 1275
Joined: Jan 2004


I'm so sorry for your recent diagnosis and understand your total frustration and anger.

For three years, I, too, was dismissed by my primary care doctor with a diagnosis of IBS for my constant bloating, constipation, and abdominal discomfort symptoms. At my annual check-up in September of 2003, as my doctor reached for his pad to write me a prescription for a new IBS drug, I stopped him and kindly asked to see a gastroenterologist. He made the referral and I soon was diagnosed with Stage 3 colon cancer.

For the next year I was in treatment. I finished chemo in July of 04. All of my friends were much angier at my primary doctor than I was. When he learned of my diagnosis, I heard that he was very concerned. I had been his patient for many years so he knew me quite well.

I pondered over whether I would ever go back to him or not. I have. He was shocked, I think! He is a good doctor who made a mistake. I would never again trust him with a major issue but with a minor ailment, I will continue to see him. My family and friends don't understand it, but for me, it is part of my healing. I must rid myself of all anger and focus on complete healing.

Keep us posted on your progress and treatment. You will be in our hearts, thoughts, and prayers.


shmurciakova's picture
Posts: 910
Joined: Dec 2002

Hi there. I was diagnosed at age 31 w/ Stage III colon cancer. I had bleeding on and off since at least the age of 26 at which time I mentioned it to my Nurse Practitioner at Planned Parenthood during my annual "girl exam". She performed a fecal slide test and of course found no blood on that day. This test was repeated the following year and also, no blood, which led us to the conclusion that it was "just hemmeroids". I even asked my brother, who is a surgeon, about this and he said the same thing. No one ever suggested a colonoscopy. It was only years later when the bleeding was happening like daily, that I went to my FP and he says " Blood in the stool is not to be taken lightly!" - and sent me for a colonoscopy. I had only 1, 1cm polyp in my Sigmoid colon - which proved to be positive. Talk about a sledgehammer to the skull! I am a forest ranger, I hike 10+ miles a day, I eat healthy food, no one in my family has ever had any type of cancer, etc. etc.
I was very confused and often wonder how my life would be different if I had discovered the polyp back when I was 26 instead of 31! It probably would have been benign, maybe?? At any rate, that is neither here nor there. I do not want to waste my energy and money on a lawsuit. Sure physicians and medical practitioners need to be aware that "Blood in the stool is not to be taken lightly", but no amount of money is going to bring back your health. Anger and resentment only fuel disease and do not promote healing. I know it may sound "new age" and all, but your thoughts are very powerful and you need to focus on healing, not revenge for something that went un-noticed. Maybe the problem is that we do not understand the signs that our bodies send us?.....I don't know, I have every reason to be angry. I am 34 and have had one major surgery a year since then. I have had my life interrupted, etc. etc. But as of now I am NED and I intend to stay that way. I am lucky compared to some people and I am choosing to focus on that instead of on what should have or could have or might have happened....
I hope you can find some peace of mind because for me, this "journey" has been much harder mentally than physically!

4law's picture
Posts: 112
Joined: Dec 2004

It usually costs nothing to meet with an attorney to see if you have a good case. You may learn that your doctor(s) were not negigent -- or, you may learn that you received substandard care. There is no reason I can see to justify not seeing a qualified attorney who specializes in medical malpractice / misdiagnosed cancer cases. There are many well-qualified attorneys available to you. If it were me, or a member of my family, I would absolutely speak to a qualified medical malpractice attorney without further delay. It is not a matter of revenge, anger or resentment -- it is a matter of personal responsibility: if your doctor provided you with sub-standard care, and the result is a more advanced cancer, you would be foolish in not seeing a lawyer.

Posts: 28
Joined: Jul 2004

Sorry to hear your situation. We have a similar situation except mine was negligent in giving me a screening I went to my FP from 90-2004 I turned 50 in 98 which is the screening age for colonoscopy never once did he offer me the screening during the coming appts. or yrs. Unfortunately now I have colon cancer IV diagnosed in 5/04 my colon was so perferated that another 24 hours it would of ruptured anyhow to make it short. My lawyer is filing on the fact that it is in the guidelines for FP or primary care doctors to recommend to anyone 50 or older screening for colonoscopy which my doctor failed to do in all the following yrs following my 50th birthday and trust me he had every opportunity to do it because I faithfully went to him for everything else. No way would I have known about colonoscopy because I relied on him to take care of me and which when I went in he did handle what I was dealing with then with pills, but never went beyond that. I have had 2 major surgeries because of his lack of care, and doing my 2nd round of chemo. My children now have to be watched in fact, my 38 yrs old had to argue with insurance company to get one done and when they did they found 6 polys which were the cancerous type, so she is lucky there the other 3 35, 33, 24 are waiting for theirs but since their mother has it they should be watched carefully. I would say go ahead and contact a attorney you may find out like I did how my primary doctor failed with me because he did not follow the guidelines for me.

kangatoo's picture
Posts: 2115
Joined: Feb 2004

Hi Maria. I was dx'd in aug. 03 with haemharroids and was put under anaesthetic for surgery. The surgery never took place as the doctor decided to do a sigmoidoscopy before he attended the haemharroids----he found 3 tumours---so did not continue the surgery. I was told after waking from the anaesthetic I almost certainly had cancer. The biopsy showed 1 tumour a partial blockage, the other 2 benign.
The interesting part here is that the tumour blocking the bowel was only "just" able to be seen by the sigmoidoscopy. It took a barium enema and colonoscopy to confirm the size of it.
Now the interesting bit. I was dx'd with haemharroids back in 1997!!! As some tumours can be slow growing my surgeon said that the dx in 97 may well have been wrong then....it may have been the cancer "blockage" in its early stage. It would probably never had been seen back then with a sigmoidoscopy because it was "just" a little out of reach of the sigmoidoscope.
After reading many posts here for the last 12 months it does seem that blood is not always present for tumours and if it is many possible cancers are "masked" by the presence of haemharroids---as was obvious in my case. It seems to me that when blood "is" present dx-ing for haemharroids should NOT be where the buck stops and doctors should press for a complete colonoscopy investigation. I guess that $$$$, insurance etc. etc. comes into the equation but patients lives should never be compramised by financial issues.
Unfortunately this is happening-----not a bad pre-requisite for mandatory screening?
I think many lives could be saved!
luv n huggs--kanga n Jen

markatger's picture
Posts: 315
Joined: Feb 2005

I would like to see literature on why colonoscopies are not ordered whenever there is bleeding.
I took my Doctor's word that I was fine, despite the bleeding.
I'm not sure if I will pursue a lawsuit, but maybe try to learn more about how the medical community can justify not fully investigating bleeding.

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