Colon and rectal cancers, often referred to together as colorectal cancer, usually begin as polyps in the colon or rectum.
According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in the United States. However, it is possible for this cancer to go undiagnosed for a variety of reasons.
Young adults are at risk of misdiagnosis
While overall colorectal cancer rates have decreased since the 1980s, diagnoses in adults under 50 have slowly increased. For people in this age group, however, a diagnosis does not always come quickly.
The Florida Department of Health generally recommends routine colorectal cancer screening starting at age 45. People in their 20s and 30s with no family history of colorectal cancer may not realize they have it until they start showing symptoms. Even then, doctors may misdiagnose cancer as a less severe gastrointestinal problem.
A colonoscopy can miss cancerous polyps
Screening for colorectal cancer generally consists of a colonoscopy, a procedure in which a doctor uses a scope to view the large intestine and identify polyps.
In some cases, however, the screening may fail to identify a cancerous or precancerous polyp. This can be due to doctor negligence or inadequate preparation. During a colonoscopy, the bowel must be completely empty to allow for a thorough examination. If the doctor is unable to complete the exam due to incomplete preparation, it is critical that the doctor communicate this to the patient and schedule a second colonoscopy.
Failure to diagnose colorectal cancer can have deadly results. Routine screening and thorough testing when a patient presents with gastrointestinal symptoms can help avoid tragic outcomes.