Colon Cancer Misdiagnosis – Why It Happens & What To Do About It

Colon cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in men and women. The third most common type of cancer in men and women, if you’re not counting various types of skin cancer.

By the end of 2021, there’s expected to be a total of 104,270 new colon cancer cases in the United States alone. And unfortunately, estimates show that roughly 52,980 deaths will be caused by colon cancer by the end of 2021. 

With such alarming stats, it’s devastating to think that some may die because of a colon cancer misdiagnosis. Especially when the disease is becoming more prevalent in young people…

Unfortunately, it happens.  In fact, many young people with colon cancer mention that they were initially misdiagnosed. Later, when the correct diagnosis came it was already late-stage cancer. Late-stage colon cancer is harder to treat, more expensive to treat, and comes with lower chances of survival. So what gives? Keep reading to learn more. 

A drawn image of the colon.

What Is Colon Cancer?

Colon cancer refers to cancer in the colon or rectum. Whether the cancer is called colon cancer or rectal cancer depends on where it starts. 

Both the colon and the rectum make up the large intestine, which is part of the digestive tract. The colon, a muscular tube, is a whopping 5 feet long. Most colon cancers begin as growths, called polyps, in the inner lining of this tube. Many polyps can turn into cancers if not removed quickly enough.

Colon cancer can spread fast – from the innermost layer to through the many layers of the colon. 

Types Of Colon Cancer

Most colon cancers are adenocarcinomas. These cancers begin in the cells that are responsible for creating the mucus found in the colon. 

Here are some other, less common colon cancers:

      • Lymphomas. Cancers of immune system cells; starts in lymph nodes
      • Sarcomas. Can start in muscles, blood vessels, or connective tissue
      • Carcinoid tumors. Start from hormone-making cells
      • Gastrointestinal stromal tumors. Start from special cells in wall

Colon Cancer Symptoms

People with colon cancer may not experience any symptoms in the early stages. When patients do experience symptoms, here’s what it might look like: 

    • Blood in stool
    • General changes in bowel movements
    • Changes in stool size, shape, and/or consistency
    • Abdominal pain
    • Weakness and fatigue
    • Sudden weight loss

Diagnosis & Misdiagnosis Of Colon Cancer

Like many cancers, screenings are a great, preventative method to ensure you don’t have colon cancer. And of course to help avoid a colon cancer misdiagnosis. If you do have the disease, the hope is that doctors can catch it early on. Diagnosing colon cancer requires one of the following testing mechanisms:

Colonoscopy. This is a procedure in which an endoscope, fitted with a camera, is inserted through the rectum. 

Computerized Tomography Scan. This less invasive method of testing uses radiation to create images of a patient’s colon to identify any abnormalities.

Misdiagnosing Colon Cancer

Because colon cancer shares similarities with other diseases, doctors often misdiagnose it. Let’s discuss a couple of conditions that colon cancer may be misdiagnosed as: 

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Most patients who are victims of colon cancer misdiagnosis report an initial diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). IBS patients display many of the same symptoms as those with colon cancer. Younger patients who complain of abdominal pain, loss of appetite, and fatigue are sometimes given a diagnosis of IBS when it’s actually colon cancer. 


Diverticulitis is a condition in which normal digestive tract growths become infected or inflamed. This can show up as severe abdominal pain, changes in bowel habits, and blood in stool. Many of these symptoms are the same ones patients with colon cancer experience. 

Why Misdiagnosis Happens

We know other diseases and conditions share many similarities with colon cancer. Therefore, it can often receive a misdiagnosis. 

But there’s something else. When people think of colon cancer, they think of older patients. We’re talking 50, 60+ years. That’s why most people don’t have their first colon cancer screening until they’re well over the age of 45. Colon cancer can show up in younger patients as well. In fact, more and more younger people are living with the disease. But far too often, medical professionals dismiss this possibility and diagnose younger patients with something that seems more “plausible” to them. 

Woman talks to colon cancer misdiagnosis lawyer.

What Are Your Options?

Colon cancer misdiagnosis can mean not receiving treatment for a very serious condition. It means your health can deteriorate even if you were proactive in finding answers. It means more money out of your pocket for more tests, possible pain and suffering, and the potential detriment of your health. 

A physician’s mistake shouldn’t cost you your health. You have options. Contact us today to discuss your case. You may deserve compensation.