Colonoscopy and Colon Cancer – What happens when diagnosis is missed?

One of our clients has been made aware by their NHS Trust that problems may have occurred during their colonic surveillance colonoscopy. This kind of letter would be hugely concerning under any circumstances, but for patients who should be undergoing regular colonoscopies the results could be devastating. If you have received a similar letter and would like advice, please contact us.

So, why are these colonoscopies being carried out, and what could the result of the problems be?

What is a Colonoscopy and why are they carried out?

A colonoscopy is a procedure that uses a tiny camera on a flexible tube to look at the lining of the large bowel. Colonoscopy screening is commonly used to detect the signs and symptoms of colon cancer, and other illnesses such as bowel cancer, Crohn’s disease and diverticulitis.
Colonoscopies are carried out if a doctor thinks you have symptoms which indicate a problem in the last part of your digestive system, or if you have a diagnosed problem in your bowel like Crohn’s Disease, it may be recommended that you have regular screening via colonoscope in order to check that the condition is stable.

What can go wrong with colonoscopy screening?

As a procedure, there is a risk of harm from a colonoscopy. The colonoscope can tear or damage the bowel as it passes through, and an operation may be required to repair the injury. However, the real danger lies with the way in which the results of the examination are interpreted.
Regular screenings are recommended for those with inflammatory conditions such as Crohn’s or diverticulitis because they are at a greater risk of developing cancers in the digestive system. If there is a cancer misdiagnosis, the delay can mean that it is too late for effective treatment to be provided.

What happens if they find something?

If the results of the colonoscopy are not clear, this could be for several reasons. One of which is a polyp – a small lump which commonly occurs in the bowel and is often no cause for concern. Doctors can remove them during the colonoscopy procedure, and if this is not possible will plan to do it via later surgery.
If something more serious is detected, like cancer, then treatment may involve chemotherapy, radiotherapy, surgery, or a combination of the three.

Can anything reduce the cancer risk for Crohn’s sufferers?

Although those with Crohn’s disease and other inflammatory bowel conditions are at greater risk of cancer, if it becomes apparent that the condition of their colon is worsening, the entire colon and rectum may be surgically removed.
If this is done, a procedure called ileal pouch anal anastomosis (or IPAA) can be used to recreate the rectum and restore the anal fecal flow.

Have You Been Affected?

I’ve received a letter warning me that there might have been problems with my colonoscopy – what should I do?

In the first instance, the best course of action is to follow any guidance given in the letter. You will most likely be given a member of medical staff to contact, and they will be able to advise on the next steps in your treatment.

What are the risks to me? What should I do if I think I have been affected by problems with colonoscopy screening?

This will of course vary from person to person. If you have any immediate concerns you should always speak to a medical professional.
If you believe that there has been a delay in diagnosis that made your symptoms worse, we can offer a free, confidential discussion with one of Enable Law’s specialist medical negligence lawyers.
Get in touch with our team today to discuss your legal rights after cancer misdiagnosis or injury after a colonoscopy.

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