Bowel cancer misdiagnosis: how you can make a successful claim

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Terry Regan

Director and Head of Medical and Clinical Negligence

Published: 18/07/2023

Bowel cancer (sometimes referred to as colon cancer, rectal cancer or colorectal cancer) is one of the most common forms of cancer in the UK. According to The World Cancer Research Fund, bowel cancer was the 4th most common type diagnosed in 2019. Research conducted by Cancer Research UK also shows there are over 41,000 cases of bowel cancer each year.

Many symptoms of bowel cancer are shared with less aggressive illnesses such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Because of this, many sufferers of bowel/colon cancer are misdiagnosed, which can result in treatment delays. In this guide, we will be exploring the misdiagnosis of bowel and colon cancer and how patients who have experienced misdiagnosis can make a successful bowel cancer misdiagnosis claim.

What are the most common symptoms of bowel cancer?

There are numerous symptoms of colorectal cancer, and you may not experience all of the symptoms at once. Each symptom is a cause for concern, so you should seek medical advice as soon as possible.

The main symptoms of bowel cancer are:

  • Rectal bleeding
  • Blood in your stool
  • An unexplained change in stool habits (this could include diarrhoea and constipation)
  • Frequent abdominal pain
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Lethargy and extreme tiredness for no obvious reason
  • A noticeable lump in your abdomen
  • Your bowels still feeling full after using the toilet

What is bowel cancer often misdiagnosed as?

Because many of the symptoms are shared with less aggressive and more common illnesses, bowel/colon cancer is often misdiagnosed. If you're experiencing pain in your abdomen, for example, it’s very easy to pass this off as a temporary issue with your digestive system, but if it doesn't go away, you shouldn't ignore it.

A delay or misdiagnosis could mean you don't get the treatment you need quickly enough, potentially resulting in the cancer spreading to other areas of your body. Some common illnesses that are often diagnosed instead of bowel and colon cancer are:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) – this affects the digestive system and exhibits as abdominal pain, cramps, loss of appetite, and swollen stomach
  • Ulcerative colitis – this is inflammation of the lower part of your digestive system, such as the bowel and rectum
  • Diverticulitis – this refers to small bulges or pockets (diverticula) developing in the large intestine
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) – this is chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract
  • Haemorrhoids – these are piles (lumps) that form inside and around your bottom

As it is easy to mistake bowel cancer for these conditions, misdiagnosis can be likely to occur, which can have severe consequences for the patient. If your cancer has recently been misdiagnosed as something less serious, and you would like to find out more about cancer misdiagnosis claims you should contact a medical negligence solicitor today to discuss your case and see if you are entitled to any compensation.

What impact can a cancer misdiagnosis have?

A cancer misdiagnosis is a serious issue and should be acted on right away. A cancer misdiagnosis can have very negative, long-term effects. The various impacts of bowel cancer misdiagnosis include:

  • Delayed diagnosis: a misdiagnosis or a delayed diagnosis means delayed treatment. With such an aggressive illness as cancer, quick reaction rates are essential to reduce the strain on your body and increase the likelihood of beating it
  • Further treatment required: a delay in treatment could also mean a more aggressive or extensive treatment plan is needed. As cancer has been allowed to grow, the delay could mean that cancer has spread elsewhere across the body which would require a variety of treatments to target the specific areas and cancer
  • Wrongful death: a misdiagnosis could, in more extreme cases, make the cancer terminal and untreatable which would lead to a death that could have potentially been avoided

This is why sufferers of a cancer misdiagnosis should seek legal advice as soon as possible. In addition to the points mentioned above, a cancer misdiagnosis can have a serious financial impact on an individual. For example, a misdiagnosis may someone to take more time off work so they can receive the correct treatment.

A misdiagnosis made by a medical professional may also cause harm to an individual's mental health by completely disrupting their lifestyle. Being diagnosed with cancer can be extremely stressful and worrying and misdiagnosis can add to this stress significantly. A patient's faith in doctors and medicine can be shattered by a cancer misdiagnosis which can induce anxious and depressive spirals.

How is bowel cancer misdiagnosed?

Bowel cancer could be misdiagnosed by medical professionals such as doctors, consultants, and surgeons in a number of ways. In particular, a GP may not refer the patient for tests despite the warning signs being present. Some examples of failure to act include:

  • Incorrect reading of test results such as blood and a colonoscopy
  • Failure to refer for further testing
  • Positive or negative test results
  • Ignoring the symptoms a patient is experiencing

How can I claim for bowel cancer misdiagnosis

You can make a claim for colon cancer misdiagnosis by simply seeking legal advice from a specialist professional as soon as possible. It would be beneficial to contact a medical negligence solicitor such as Wake Smith as soon as possible. Contacting a trusted solicitor will help you gain the information you need and guide you when taking the appropriate action to gain compensation. To make a claim, you should gather as much evidence as possible that can help your misdiagnosis case. These pieces of evidence include:

  • Test results
  • Correspondence with medical professionals
  • Any medical notes/letters
  • Any dates proving when you first sought help and when you were properly diagnosed

If you have been emailing or writing to a doctor/medical facility, it is beneficial to keep a copy of all communications. You should also store copies of your medical records if possible. Do not worry if you do not have this information as Wake Smith can help gather the evidence.

How Wake Smith can help

If you believe you have been wrongfully diagnosed and have suffered from a misdiagnosis of colon cancer or bowel cancer negligence, you can contact us on our website or at 0114 266 666. For trusted legal advice from our friendly team of commercial and personal law experts, Wake Smith is committed to getting you the support you need in making a successful medical negligence claim against a colorectal cancer misdiagnosis.

Contact Wake Smith Today!


About the author

Terry Regan

Director and Head of Medical and Clinical Negligence

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