The managing partner at one of New York’s top colon cancer misdiagnosis law firms recommends steps people can take to prevent doctor error when examining patients who present with symptoms of the dreaded disease.
According to Jay W. Dankner, Esq., of the top colon cancer misdiagnosis law firm of Dankner Milstein, P.C., it’s virtually impossible for medical officials to get an exact count on the number of colon cancer cases that are misdiagnosed in the city each year. Health officials make best-guess estimates based on autopsies and related morbidity medical reports. Guesstimates put the rate of error at 10%-to-15% of all cases of colon cancer treated by physicians and in hospitals in New York City.
“Absent hard data,” Danker said, “we might never know the extent of the problem of colon cancer misdiagnosis. However, there are steps every person can and should take to improve his or her chances that doctors spot the disease before it’s too late and prevent the condition from getting worse.”
1. If you see blood in your stool, see a specialist immediately
2. Make a list of your symptoms. Write them down!
Doctors we’ve interviewed for this story tell us that even they are surprised by how many patients invariably forget to tell them about a symptom that could have been crucial for them to know, patients say things after the fact like, ‘oh I forgot to tell you something.’ That thing they forgot to tell their doctor could be really important.
And, don’t wait until the last minute to make the list of your symptoms. Jot down notes 3 or 4 times prior to your appointment with your doctor. And takes notes at the appointment – don’t forget to bring your mobile device, or laptop, or even just bring a pen and paper with you and write down what you hear.
People who receive a disturbing diagnosis like, “There might be a tumor(s) in there that’s causing…” are gripped by fear and tend to forget everything the doctor tells them from that point forward. So write down what your doctor says, however insignificant it may seem, the moment it’s convenient to do so. And be sure to ask your doctor for copies of his notes. And if he/she keeps electronic medical records, get a copy of those as well…and get them BEFORE you leave his/her office.
3. Do you know your family’s medical history? If you don’t, find out.
Some illnesses are clearly hereditary and colon cancer – like heart disease, depression, anxiety — is often one of them. Take the time to question close family members (mother, father, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles et al) and make a list of diseases and conditions for which they’ve been treated, particularly colon cancer.
4. Show your doctor a complete list of all the medications you’re taking.
Include the names of the medications and dosage information.
5. Describe your symptoms to your doctor as clearly and succinctly as possible.
The clearer you are with your doctor about what’s going on in your body, the better able he or she will be to examine ALL of the possibilities that may be causing your pain and discomfort, or feelings of weakness and fatigue. Your doctor needs your help in pulling together all of the information he or she will need to help better diagnose and define your condition. If something hurts, like a burning sensation in the abdomen, or if it hurts to move your bowels, even if it’s a dull ache, tell your doctor. Tell him/her if you’ve had a fever. Tell him/her if the discomfort only happens after you eat.
Tell him/her how long the pain lasts, and for how long you’ve had it: since yesterday; a week; longer? Also tell him/her if there’s anything you do that helps to relieve the pain.
6. Before leaving your doctor’s office, be clear about what your doctor will do next
Regardless of whether or not you get a diagnosis on the first visit, ask your doctor what you should expect to have happen next. Ask him/her if there are any “red flags” you should be on the lookout for. Know what you should do if the pain worsens suddenly or if a fever spikes. Ask about any further testing he/she intends to do.
7. Never Be Afraid To Ask Your Doctor Any Questions That Concern You About Your Condition
Be direct and don’t be shy about second-guessing your doctor. Questions like: “Doc, what additional information do you need from me to get to the bottom of this? Are there any other specialists, procedures, or tests that would help you make an accurate diagnosis? When do you want me to make the next appointment? And what information can I bring next time?
All of these questions are entirely appropriate and could make the difference in your getting an accurate and complete diagnosis. And, if you are feeling unsure about your doctor’s manner, expertise and thoroughness in any way, DO NOT be afraid to ask for a second opinion. No doctor is perfect, no matter what we might like to think and believe about him or her. The fact is, patients who ask for second opinions do not threaten good doctors. In fact, good doctors welcome second opinions from competent peers.
“Keep all of this in mind,” Dankner added. “And, if you ever feel a doctor has failed to diagnose a condition such as colon cancer, feel free to call or contact us by phone or e-mail to discuss your concerns and to protect you rights.”