March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, a time set aside to raise awareness of a group of different cancers affecting the colorectal tract. Lumped together, colorectal cancer is the third most common type of cancer in the world.
In adults, the colorectal tract is nearly five feet in length. It has lots of segments, including the ascending, transverse, descending, and sigmoid colon. These parts occupy a lot of space in the abdominal cavity on both sides.
Colorectal cancer is complex. Just like there’s no global cure for all types of cancer, the same is true for colorectal cancer. The appropriate treatment varies with where the cancer is located in the colorectal tract, including which side of the body. One doctor summed it up like this:
• Colorectal cancer on the right side of the body: Overall worse prognosis, more common in females.
• Colorectal cancer on the left side of the body: Overall better prognosis, more common in males.
The key take-home message for Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month is that it’s the most preventable type of cancer in the United States. Current recommendations call for people with an average or typical risk to get screened beginning at age 50. Screening can be through colonoscopy or some newer, less-invasive tests.
Most cases begin as polyps (small benign/non-cancerous growths) on the lining of the colon. With regular colonoscopies, a gastroenterologist can identify them early. Sometimes they can be removed during a colonoscopy itself. Other times, the GI doctor will refer the patient to a general or colorectal surgeon to have them removed.
Despite its being so treatable, medical experts believe that one-half to two-thirds of patients don’t go it for colorectal cancer screening.
Some of the most common medical malpractice claims we’ve seen concerning colorectal cancer include:
• A gastroenterologist misses a polyp during a colonoscopy screening.
• If cancer is detected, the surgeon doesn’t achieve the “gold standard” goal of an R0 resection, which means all of the cancer that the surgeon can see or feel is removed, plus adequate clean margins to remove microscopic cancer. An R0 resection is essential for the best odds of successful treatment.
• During a surgery to remove colorectal cancer, the surgeon makes a mistake and cuts an unintended structure, like the middle colic or superior mesenteric vein or artery. This can end up killing the colon, which requires a significant resection (surgical removal) of a patient’s colon. Recovery from the inevitable added surgeries and recovery can delay the physical ability of the patient to start chemotherapy on time. This type of delay can allow the cancer to return. An R0 resection followed by chemotherapy is the effective 1-2 punch for many types of colorectal cancer.
If you’ve been seriously injured because of poor colorectal cancer care, then contact a top-rated experienced Houston, Texas medical malpractice lawyer for help in evaluating your potential case.