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A Las Vegas jury recently awarded a family $2.5 million dollars after determining that a doctor failed to properly diagnose a twenty-seven year old Elisa Sanchez, a wife and mother, with colon and rectal cancer.

Attorneys for Sanchez’s husband and 5-year-old daughter, who now live in New Mexico, alleged the woman’s colon and rectal cancer was repeatedly misdiagnosed as hemorrhoids.

According to reports, had Elisa Sanchez’s cancer been timely diagnoses, her chances of survival would have been 97%:

Karen said Sanchez likely would be alive today if doctors had diagnosed her cancer earlier. Before she died, Sanchez went through chemotherapy and major surgery, including the removal of her uterus and part of her lower intestines, said Clark Seegmiller, another attorney for the family.

Doctors often misdiagnose conditions because it is easier to accept the "usual" cause of symptoms. There is a saying that if you hear hoof beats, you expect to see a horse, not a zebra. That appears to be what happened in this case. Most doctors wouldn’t expect a twenty-seven year old woman to have colon cancer. Hemorrhoids were clearly a more "logical" explanation.

Unfortunately, there are many cases of misdiagnoses that begin this way. Physicians rely upon statistics to guide them in their diagnoses. When seeing your doctor you should insist on not being treated as a statistic and asking your doctor to rule out ALL the possible diagnoses, not simply stopping at the most likely or most "logical." Such short cuts in health care can be catastrophic.

While some might initially feel that $2.5 million dollars is a windfall, consider that over $2 million of the jury’s award reflected the lost wages that Sanchez would have earned over her lifetime:

Nevada caps malpractice lawsuit awards at $350,000 for pain and suffering. In this case, the jury awarded at least $2 million in "economic losses," or future lost wages. Sanchez worked in retail.

That’s compensation that Sanchez’s husband and daughter would have been without, absent their lawsuit.

Elisa Sanchez knew something was wrong.

Like Elisa Sanchez, sometimes you know that something is wrong. If your "gut" feeling is telling you that something doesn’t add up, demand more from your physician than simply being treated like a statistic.

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