March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, an annual observance dedicated to increasing awareness about colorectal cancer, highlighting the importance of early detection, and promoting the fight against one of the deadliest cancers. With millions of lives affected by colorectal cancer, understanding the diagnosis process and what to do in the event of a misdiagnosis is vital knowledge for patients and their families.


What Is Colorectal Cancer?


Colorectal cancer, also known as bowel cancer, develops from abnormal growths in the colon or rectum. These growths can be benign, known as polyps, without the capacity to spread, or malignant tumors capable of metastasizing to other parts of the body.  The term “colorectal cancer” refers to two types of cancers that start either in the colon or the rectum. Colon cancer and rectal cancer are similar in growth, but it is important to distinguish between the two due to their placement and differing symptoms.


Understanding the Impact of Colorectal Cancer


According to a recent 2024 study by the ACS, colorectal cancer now ranks as the primary cause of cancer-related deaths among men under 50, a significant rise from its previous fourth position two decades ago. Among women under 50, it holds the second spot, following breast cancer, which remains the leading cause.

Amidst the labyrinth of cancer types, colorectal cancer stands out as a silent yet deadly threat. According to the National Cancer Institute, 2023 saw 153,020 new cases of this malignancy in the United States, while the American Cancer Society estimates that these figures are set to rise, with 106,590 new cases projected for 2024. With the staggering statistics placing it as the third most common cancer diagnosis in the country, there’s an increasing urgency for clear diagnosis and effective intervention.

While early detection can significantly improve prognosis, the harrowing truth is that colorectal cancer is often misdiagnosed, leading to delayed or inappropriate treatment. This misfortune not only afflicts the one in the patient’s shoes but reverberates throughout their support system.



Don’t Ignore the Signs


It’s a common misconception that colorectal cancer only affects the older population. However, recent findings indicate a significant increase in cases among young adults, including those in their 20s, 30s, and 40s. Yale Medicine specialists are now emphasizing the importance of early detection and are encouraging individuals under 45, even college students, to consult their healthcare providers if they experience symptoms such as constipation, rectal bleeding, or abrupt changes in bowel habits.


Early detection is crucial for effective treatment, making knowledge of symptoms paramount.


The Initial Disguise


The early stages of colorectal cancer are typically asymptomatic or exhibit mild symptoms like changes in bowel habits, abdominal discomfort, and unexplained weight loss. These vague signs can be easily dismissed or attributed to non-threatening causes.


Red Flags to Watch For


Over time, these signs intensify, developing into more specific symptoms, including blood in the stool, persistent cramping, weakness, and rectal bleeding. It’s at this stage when diagnosis is most crucial, yet misdiagnosis is most likely due to the symptoms’ similarity to less severe conditions like hemorrhoids or IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome).


How Misdiagnoses Happen


Misdiagnosis in colorectal cancer is a multi-faceted issue that involves different aspects of the healthcare system. It can occur at any point, from the initial symptom presentation to the final treatment phase.


Factors at Play in the Primary Care Setting


Primary care physicians often make the initial assessments and referrals for further diagnostics. Time constraints, cognitive biases, and lack of information about recent medical history can lead to missteps in recognizing the gravity of colorectal cancer symptoms.


Challenges in Diagnostic Testing and Interpretation


Diagnostic tests are the backbone of cancer detection, but they are not infallible. Issues such as false positives or negatives in colonoscopies, misinterpretation of pathology reports, or inadequate imaging studies may contribute to misdiagnoses.


The Role of Communication in Misdiagnoses


Effective communication between healthcare providers and the patient is critical. When test results are delayed or lost in the medical records labyrinth, or when notes from one physician to another are unclear, it can result in a diagnostic derailment.


Impacts and Ramifications for Patient Health


The repercussions of a missed diagnosis or a delay in determining colorectal cancer can be profound. Patients face not only the progression of the disease but also the potential need for more aggressive treatment options as a result.


Patient Outcomes and Prognosis


  1. Advanced Disease at Discovery
  1. Psychological and Emotional Toll
    • Patients who experience a misdiagnosis endure extended periods of uncertainty and stress. This toll can have significant psychological impacts, affecting both mental health and overall quality of life.
  1. Subsequent Treatment Challenges
    • The more advanced the stage of cancer, the more complex and aggressive the treatment. Misdiagnosis often necessitates more intrusive procedures, greater use of resources, and a higher probability of long-term health complications.


When the Diagnosis is Wrong


Turning our attention to the steps that must be taken when a colorectal cancer diagnosis falls into the shadow of medical error.


Patient Rights and Legal Avenues


Patients who have faced misdiagnosis due to medical negligence have legal recourse. Understanding patient rights, accessing legal counsel, and pursuing cases with diligence can be steps toward seeking justice and closure.


Rehabilitation and Support


The impact of a misdiagnosis is not confined to the initial event. The rehabilitation and support efforts that follow play a crucial role in the patient’s healing, both physically and emotionally.


Channeling Grief into Action


The loss or suffering resulting from a misdiagnosis is a profound catalyst for change. Families and patients who have navigated through these shadows are often the most compelling voices in the fight against misdiagnosis.


Steps to Take If You’ve Received a Misdiagnosis


Discovering that one’s colorectal cancer has been misdiagnosed is a distressing situation. However, patients who find themselves in this unfortunate circumstance have options and rights.


Seek a Second Opinion


The first step in addressing a misdiagnosis is to seek a second opinion from a qualified healthcare professional. A fresh review of your case could lead to a proper diagnosis and the correct treatment plan.


Gather Your Medical Records


Documentation is crucial. Obtain and secure all your relevant medical records, including test results and the original misdiagnosis. These records will serve as evidence and a point of reference for any subsequent medical and legal actions.


Consider Legal Representation


Medical malpractice laws are in place to protect patients from negligence. If you believe you have been a victim of a misdiagnosis, consulting with a medical malpractice attorney might be the best course of action. A skilled malpractice attorney can help you understand your rights and advocate for the compensation you may be entitled to for the harm you have suffered.

If you reside in or around any of the areas we serve in Ohio and Michigan – MaumeeDefianceFremontFindlayLimaMansfield, Toledo, and Monroe – you can count on having one of our personal injury lawyers from Gallon, Takacs & Boissoneault to represent you in a medical malpractice case.  With a local injury attorney near you, help is just a phone call away.


Gallon, Takacs & Boissoneault Medical Malpractice Lawyers


At Gallon, Takacs & Boissoneault, we know that dealing with medical malpractice is a deeply personal and sensitive matter. It’s not just about the financial compensation, it’s about the impact that a misdiagnosis can have on your life. That’s why our team of medical malpractice lawyers takes a compassionate approach to every one of our clients. We take the time to listen to your story, understand how the misdiagnosis has affected you, and work tirelessly to achieve the best possible outcome. If you have been affected by a potential colorectal cancer misdiagnosis, you don’t have to suffer alone. We are here to help you navigate the legal system and fight for the justice you deserve.

Call us at 419-843-6663 to get started, or use our easy online contact form today.

A free consultation with one of our experienced Ohio Medical Malpractice attorneys at Gallon, Takacs & Boissoneault can offer peace of mind. Our consultations can offer guidance on legal options, case evaluations, and potential compensation. The free consultations assure accident victims of legal assistance without financial cost. Personal Injury cases are taken on a contingency fee basis. That means you pay no fees unless we recover compensation for you.