In some instances, colon cancer misdiagnosis can occur, as the symptoms can be confused with other conditions or the correct tests are not ordered. It’s estimated that across all types of cancer around 10% of cases are initially misdiagnosed. This means a delay in treatment and can potentially have a significant impact on survival rates and the type of treatment that is needed.
Colon cancer misdiagnosed as diverticulitis
Diverticulitis affects the large intestine, or colon, and has symptoms that are also associated with bowel cancer, such as abdominal pain and feeling bloated. This means that unless your GP conducts the necessary tests to rule out bowel cancer, it can be mislabelled as diverticulitis.
Colon cancer misdiagnosed as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
IBS is a common digestive problem that causes bouts of symptoms such as bloating and diarrhoea or constipation. The symptoms can vary from mild to severe but in some cases, bowel cancer can wrongly by diagnosed as IBS. If the symptoms are mild, it can mean that a doctor doesn’t link the signs with cancer at first but believes it is IBS.
Colon cancer misdiagnosed as ulcerative colitis
Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease, the symptoms tend to flare up and are similar to those of bowel cancer, including abdominal pain and recurring diarrhoea. Ulcerative colitis is often misdiagnosed as colon cancer and vice-versa, as a result of the similar symptoms.
Colon cancer misdiagnosed as haemorrhoids
Haemorrhoids, or piles, are swellings containing enlarged blood vessels that are found inside or around the rectum. As bowel cancer can also cause swelling this can mean bowel cancer is misdiagnosed as haemorrhoids. However, piles aren’t typically associated with other symptoms of colon cancer.
In order to prevent misdiagnosis, there should be steps that GPs and other medical professionals take. Diagnosis of colon cancer will include a digital rectal examination conducted by the GP. If the symptoms suggest that you do have colon cancer a colonoscopy or computerised tomography colonography can be used to conduct a more extensive examination of the colon. Once bowel cancer is confirmed it’s likely that further testing will be carried out to see if the cancer has spread.