Study Finds Hospitals Still Failing to Properly Treat Colon Cancer Patients

Article posted on:09/17/2008

As was initially reported by Reuters, a recent study of data from nearly 1,300 U.S. hospitals has revealed that less than half routinely meet a key component for care of colon cancer patients -- checking a suitable number of lymph nodes following surgery to determine if the cancer has spread to other areas of the body. Medical literature and leading medical organizations say that physicians should examine at least 12 lymph nodes in patients who have had colon surgery to remove cancerous tumors to determine whether the colon cancer has metastasized. Such information is critical to physicians' efforts to accurately diagnose the stage and/or severity of the caner, guide future treatment, and determine whether a patient may be a candidate for chemotherapy. The study, which reviewed hospital data from patients who had undergone surgery to remove colon cancer in 2004 and 2005, found that only 38% of the hospitals in fact checked at least 12 lymph notes. According to physicians who participated in the study, checking too few lymph notes may give a false impression that the cancer has not spread to other areas of the body.

As with most illnesses, early diagnosis of cancer is the best ammunition that a patient has toward defeating the disease.   If, however, the cancer was missed by physicians for an appreciable amount of time or simply not timely diagnosed, a patient can face dire consequences. Sadly, these delays in diagnosis can result in more invasive treatment, extended physical and emotional heartache and even death. Most cancers are either graded or staged in terms of their severity. The lower the grade or stage (i.e., the earlier the diagnosis), the better a patient's chances are of survival. Conversely, the higher the grade or stage, the worse a patient's chances are of survival. Importantly, a delay in diagnosis can increase the likelihood that the tumor will metastasize (spread) to the lungs, thereby significantly decreasing a person's chances of survival.  In Maryland, failure to diagnose cases can only be pursued if the negligence caused the patient's cancer to progress from a stage in which the patient had a probability of surviving the cancer if he or she received proper treatment to a circumstance in which they now face a probability of death due to the growth / spread of the cancer inside the body. 

As experienced Baltimore, Maryland medical malpractice attorneys, we have successfully settled or received favorable trial verdicts arising out of physicians' failure to timely diagnose cancer and other illnesses. Some of the more common types of cancer misdiagnoses that we have handled include: brain tumors, breast cancer, lung cancer, bone cancer, cartilaginous tumors, pancreatic cancer, liver cancer, prostate cancer, skin cancer, cervical cancer, esophageal cancer, nasal cavity cancer, colon cancer and and rectal cancer. Determining whether a physician negligently failed to diagnose and/or timely diagnose cancer requires a detailed analysis of a patient's medical records and the assistance of trained medical–legal experts. Our office not only has the resources to conduct this detailed investigation and retain world–class experts, but we have the expertise to present and explain a complicated case to a jury. Together with our medical–legal experts, we investigate whether the physicians failed to properly interpret diagnostic tests, failed or delayed in ordering the proper diagnostic tests, rendered an incorrect diagnosis of a patient's symptoms, missed tell–tale signs of an illness or disease process, failed to refer the patient to a specialist in the field, or erred in pathological, radiological or laboratory testing.