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Colon cancer frequently misdiagnosed in young patients

The American Association for Cancer Research has presented the results of a study showing that colorectal cancer is being frequently misdiagnosed among young adult patients. Montana residents should know that the symptoms of colorectal cancer include vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, blood in stool, fatigue and inexplicable weight loss.

Because these symptoms can be mistaken for those of other conditions, and because young patients tend to be healthy, it is understandable that most physicians will not immediately think cancer is behind it all. Patients themselves, unaware that these are the symptoms of colon cancer, may wait until late in life to be screened for it.

The study presented by the AACR involved 1,195 colorectal cancer patients and survivors between the ages of 20 and 49. Fifty-seven percent were diagnosed in their 40s while a third were diagnosed in their 30s and less than 10 percent were diagnosed before their 30s. Among the younger patients, 71 percent said they were diagnosed with stage 3 or 4 colon cancer.

Unfamiliarity with colon cancer symptoms led 63 percent of the patients to put off a doctor visit by 3 to 12 months after the symptoms appeared. About two-thirds said they had to see two doctors before receiving the correct diagnosis. The research is not conclusive, however, since patients' responses were self-reported and the sample of patients was relatively small.

A misdiagnosis can sometimes be the result of medical malpractice. To prove malpractice, it must be shown that the doctor failed to adhere to generally accepted medical practices, that the doctor and patient had a preexisting relationship and that the patient followed all the doctor's instructions. Filing the claim can be a complicated process, so victims may want a lawyer by their side. They may leave all negotiations to their lawyer, litigating if a settlement isn't achieved.

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P.O. Box 1745
Missoula, MT 59806

Phone: 406-203-5148
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