Stomach cancer is the growth of cancerous cells in the stomach. It is also known as “gastric cancer.”
The earlier stomach cancer is caught, the better chance a person has of surviving. A person diagnosed with localized stomach cancer, in which the cancer is contained in a single primary site, faces a five-year survival rate of 64.1 percent. Survival chances drop to 28.8 percent once the stomach cancer spreads to the lymph nodes (regional cancer) and to 4.2 percent for distant (metastasized) cancer.
Unfortunately, a person’s delayed diagnosis of stomach cancer may be due to the negligence of a medical professional. If you suspect this has occurred to you or a loved one, you should take action right away to protect your rights.
Contact Powers & Santola, LLP. Our law firm can provide a free review of your case and help you to take steps to seek just compensation for your losses.
What Is Stomach Cancer?
The wall of the stomach is made up of three layers of tissue:
- Mucosa (innermost)
- Muscularis (middle)
- Serosal (outermost).
Gastric cancer usually begins in the cells lining the mucosa layer and spreads through the outer layers as it grows. Cancer that has spread from the mucosa into deeper layers is more advanced, and a patient’s prognosis is not as good.
Stomach cancer can be classified as:
- Adenocarcinoma – Tumors of the mucosa, which make up more than 90 percent of stomach cancers
- Lymphoma – Cancer of the immune system, which is sometimes found in the stomach wall.
- Gastric stomal tumors – Tumors of the stomach wall
- Carcinoid tumors – Tumors of the hormone-producing cells of the stomach.
About 22,220 new cases of stomach cancer are diagnosed each year, making stomach cancer account for 1.3 percent of all cancers. About 28.3 percent of stomach cancer patients survive for five years or more.
How is Stomach Cancer Diagnosed?
Stomach cancer is most often found after a patient reports symptoms to his or her doctor. At the early stage, this may include:
- Indigestion and stomach discomfort
- A bloated feeling after eating
- Mild nausea
- Loss of appetite
In more advanced stages of gastric cancer, the following symptoms may occur:
- Blood in the stool
- Weight loss for no known reason
- Stomach pain
- Jaundice (yellowing of eyes and skin)
- Ascites (build-up of fluid in the abdomen)
- Trouble swallowing.
After hearing about these symptoms, a doctor may refer the patient to a gastroenterologist. This is a doctor who specializes in diseases of the digestive tract. This physician will conduct an exam and may order such diagnostic tests as:
- Blood chemistry study – A procedure in which a blood sample is checked to measure the amounts of certain substances released into the blood by organs and tissues in the body. An unusual amount of certain substances can be a sign of disease in the organ or tissue that produces it.
- Complete blood count (CBC) – A procedure in which a sample of blood is drawn and checked for: The number of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets; the amount of hemoglobin (the protein that carries oxygen) in the red blood cells; and the portion of the sample made up of red blood cells.
- Barium swallow – This is a series of X-rays of the esophagus and stomach. The patient drinks a liquid that contains barium (a silver-white metallic compound) and coats the esophagus and stomach before X-rays are taken.
- CT or CAT scan – This procedure produces a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body from different angles. The pictures are made by a computer linked to an X-ray machine. A dye may be injected into a vein or swallowed to help the organs or tissues show up more clearly.
- Upper endoscopy – A procedure in which an endoscope (thin, lighted tube) is passed through the mouth and down the throat into the esophagus. This is used to look inside the esophagus, stomach and duodenum (first part of the small intestine) to check for abnormalities.
- Biopsy – The removal of cells or tissues so they can be viewed under a microscope to check for signs of cancer. A biopsy of the stomach is usually done during the endoscopy.
Why Does Missed or Delayed Diagnosis of Stomach Cancer Occur?
In many cases, when stomach cancer is misdiagnosed, the error occurs because of miscommunication. Radiologists sometimes report results of tests incorrectly, or the physician reads them incorrectly. This could be caused by something such as a stray mark on a form or poor handwriting.
In some cases, biopsy samples, X-rays or MRI or CAT scan results become labeled incorrectly. They may be mixed up with the wrong patient’s name. If a report or lab sample becomes lost or corrupted, this will cause a need for the test or biopsy to be repeated and a delay in diagnosis.
In busy hospitals, the examining physician or physician’s assistant may fail to obtain a proper patient history or to ask about symptoms that, if known, would indicate the need for certain diagnostic tests. Sometimes, doctors under pressure to move patients quickly may cut corners by not ordering tests. The medical center’s policies and procedures may lead to these errors.
On rare occasions, a delayed or missed diagnosis is simply caused by a physician’s incompetence. A doctor may not have training that would enable him to diagnose stomach cancer. A doctor might also be negligent because of personal issues such as a substance abuse problem or emotional or psychological issues.
What Are the Consequences of a Missed or Delayed Diagnosis of Stomach Cancer?
When a diagnosis of stomach cancer is delayed, it can result in a patient having to undergo more painful, costly and – perhaps – fruitless treatments.
Stomach cancer is treated most often with surgery to remove malignant tumors and some surrounding tissue. According to how much the cancer has spread, more of the stomach must be removed. At some point, there is too much affected tissue for surgery to be viable.
Additional treatment options include radiation and chemotherapy, which are used to kill cancer cells. Radiation may be used after surgery to destroy cancer cells that could not be seen or removed during surgery. In cases where stomach cancer has spread, chemotherapy combined with radiation therapy may increase the chances of survival and reduce the risk of cancer returning.
Radiation and chemotherapy are harsh treatments that, even when ultimately successful, can have deleterious side effects on the patient. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy may even increase a person’s risk of developing different types of cancer later in life.
Get Help from a Delayed Stomach Cancer Diagnosis Attorney
Powers & Santola, LLP, can assist if you or a loved one has been harmed by what you believe was a delayed or missed diagnosis of stomach cancer. Our New York attorneys may be able to help you obtain compensation for medical costs, pain and suffering and more if medical providers in your case were negligent.
For a free and confidential consultation about your case and your legal options, contact us today by phone or through our online form.
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