Doctors Ignored Signs of Cancer Because Woman Had a Hemorrhoid
OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) – Kaiser missed a woman’s colorectal cancer, claiming the blood in her stool was from a hemorrhoid, the woman claims in Alameda County Superior Court.
R. H. and her husband sued the Permanente Medical Group, Kaiser Foundation Hospitals, and Kaiser Foundation Health Plan for professional negligence and loss of consortium. Although the complaint used the parties' names, due to the sensitive nature of the complaint full names have not been used here.
Documentation from Kaiser points out that colorectal cancer is the second most dangerous cancer in the country, according to the couple's complaint. Since the risk of developing it is highest for those aged 50 to 75, Kaiser developed a screening program to regularly check its older members for the disease, including annual stool tests, lower colon examinations every five years, and a colonoscopy ever decade, according to the complaint.
R. H., who was over age 50 when she signed up for Kaiser, says she decided to participate in the program and submitted a stool sample. The results came back positive for blood with the possibility of colorectal cancer, and indicated the need for follow up treatment.
A few months later she had a colonoscopy. The doctor who did the procedure noted the presence of an angiodyslasia, a malformation of blood vessels in the gut that can cause unexplained gastrointestinal bleeding, as well as hemorrhoids. Since these are not known to cause colorectal cancer and none were bleeding, the doctor determined that R. H. did not need any additional treatment for another decade, according to the complaint.
Though Kaiser has several other screening measures and diagnostic tests to evaluate hemorrhoids, R. H.’s discharge instructions did not tell her about them or tell her what to do if she noticed additional bleeding during bowel movements. Instead, the instructions were merely consistent with Kaiser’s “much touted colorectal screening program,” the complain states.
Though R. H. continued having blood in her stool over the next five years, she claims her doctors assured her it was caused by the hemorrhoids and declined to perform any more tests or evaluations to see if “a far more serious and potentially lethal condition had developed – one that defendants had expressly promised its patient population that it would zealously guard against and treat appropriately.”
In January 2016, her doctor finally gave in to her insistent demands for additional testing and scheduled her an appointment with a gastroenterologist. The new doctor immediately ordered lab work and, upon seeing the results, scheduled an immediate follow up colonoscopy, which revealed R. H. had stage III B colorectal cancer, the complaint states.
“As a result of the delay in diagnostic testing and treatment, the colorectal cancer, which could have been effectively treated with minimally intrusive surgical resection of the tumor, required a far more extensive surgery and a prolonged period of multiple and highly aggressive chemotherapy sessions which have caused plaintiff very painful side effects and reactions, and a debilitated lifestyle,” the complaint states.
The couple seeks general and special damages for medical malpractice and loss of consortium.
They are represented by David S. Rand of Mill Valley.