By Laurence M. Deutsch, Esq.
and Steven E. North, Esq. (Dec. 2018)
In a prior article, we discussed how liver cancer is, fortunately, preventable in many cases. Notably, screening many categories of patients for Hepatitis C is now the “standard of care” and if properly done prevents many liver cancers.
Catching Hepatitis C early prevents liver cancer in two ways. First, Hepatitis C is now often curable (e.g. with drugs such as interferon and ribavirin). Successfully treating Hepatitis can often prevent the liver damage that leads to liver cancer.
Second, if Hepatitis C is diagnosed, developing liver cancer should be suspected. So, for patients who are diagnosed with Hepatitis C (with or without starting treatment for the virus) the standard of care is prompt imaging of the liver: so that if liver cancer has already developed it can be caught at an earlier, more curable “stage.”
The flip-side of the fact that so many liver cancers are preventable, is that liver cancer (particularly if only diagnosed in late stage) often represents a failure by doctors to have provided the standard of care, e.g. medical malpractice due to failure by doctors to properly screen their patient for Hepatitis C.
Liver cancers can also result from other failures to provide good medical care. Apart from the issue of Hepatitis screening, it has also been the “standard of care” for many years for all individuals (with or without family history) to have a screening colonoscopy at least once from age 50s. If there are no additional “risk factors” for colon cancer, the colonoscopy should be repeated at least every ten years –more frequently if there is family history of cancer, or anything suspicious found during the colonoscopy.
The “good news” is that following the recommended schedule for colonoscopies allows diagnosis of colon cancer (typically slow-growing) while it is local, and prior to spread or “metastasis.” If colon cancer is not found early, one of the most common pathways for “metastasis” is to the liver. If colon cancer has already spread to the liver, it tends to carry a much worse prognosis (less chance for an ultimate cure).
That is, liver cancer is (often) a sign of late diagnosis of colon cancer. Many liver cancers represent an advanced stage of colon cancer that, had the patient been properly monitored by the recommended schedule for colonoscopies, should never have been allowed to progress that far.
Some liver cancers are truly “out of the blue.” However, liver cancer is quite often preventable, either by proper diagnosis of Hepatitis (in a patient who should have been tested for the virus) or following the recommended schedule for colonoscopies, to prevent more advanced colon cancer that often progresses to the liver.
Therefore, we regard liver cancer as a “marker” for legal, as well as medical evaluation.
Not every case of liver cancer warrants a legal case. But the degree to which proper medical care prevents so many liver cancers, warrants a close evaluation for any patient with liver cancer: to review their care to determine if they have actually been receiving proper care –or whether a cancer was allowed to develop (or spread) unnecessarily.
We have successfully represented patients on issues of Hepatitis screening, and colonoscopy, to recover compensation for medical malpractice.
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Specialist in Cases Involving Significant Damages • Listed in Best Lawyers • Listed in Who’s Who • Commentator, Court T.V., Eyewitness News, Talk News T.V. • Contributing Author, New York Law Journal Author of Numerous Publications • Faculty Chairman, Continuing Legal Education Programs • Trial Lawyer and Bar Association Committees
1988, New York and U.S. District Court, Northern, Southern, Eastern and Western Districts of New York. Union College, Schenectady, B.A., magna cum laude, 1984 Phi Beta Kappa; University of Chicago Law School, J.D., 1987
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