West Palm Beach FL—A South Florida hair salon owner has incurable colon cancer because of a doctor’s hurried colonoscopy, an attorney said as trial began against the doctor Thursday. Kazandjian v. Vastola, et al., 2015CA005637.
“I’m going to tell you today, he’s outlived his diagnosis,” Gary Roberts, of Roberts & Associates, told jurors about Zaven Kazandjian’s colon cancer. “But, he’ll succumb as a result of the cancer that was misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all in October of 2011.”
That was when Kazandjian, now 72, underwent a colonoscopy by Dr. David Vastola, who found no polyps or other intestinal problems during the procedure.
About 18 months later, Vastola performed another colonoscopy on Kazandjian and diagnosed him with colon cancer. Doctors later determined the cancer had metastasized to his liver.
Kazandjian, owner of a hair salon in Palm Beach Gardens, claims Vastola was negligent in missing the cancer, or its likely precursor, an intestinal polyp, during the 2011 colonoscopy. In Thursday’s opening statements, Roberts told jurors Vastola, who performed the colonoscopy in eight minutes, did not spend enough time examining Kazandjian's intestine. Roberts noted Kazandjian had a history of colon polyps. “That should have put Dr. Vastola on an alert, on a high index of suspicion: take it easy, take your time, go slow,” Roberts said. “You know the percentages are [favorable that] he’s going to have polyps.”
If they’re not removed, polyps can develop into colon cancer, the second leading cause of cancer death in men, according to the American Cancer Society. If caught and removed in time, however, a patient can avoid cancer or prevent its spread. Roberts told jurors evidence would show Kazandjian’s cancer began as a slow-growing tumor that would have taken more than the 18 months between colonoscopies to develop. Roberts argued Vastola’s quick work in 2011 missed what would have been a precancerous polyp or a far less developed cancer, which could have been curable. “He hurried,” Roberts said of Vastola. “He should not have hurried.”
However, Vastola’s attorney, Hector Buigas, of The Law Offices of Keith J. Puya, told jurors the eight minutes spent on the 2011 colonoscopy was sufficient, given Vastola’s experience with the procedure. Buigas highlighted notes from the 2011 colonoscopy that showed Vastola, a gastroenterologist, found no polyps or any of a range of other intestinal problems. “He was able to assess all of these things in 8 minutes,” Buigas said. "That’s what you can do when you’ve been doing it for 40 years, and you’ve done thousands of these, because it was an uncomplicated colonoscopy.”
Buigas noted a CT scan of Kazandjian’s abdomen before the 2011 colonoscopy showed nothing out of the ordinary, and he said experts would testify that polyps could grow and become cancerous within 18 months. While it may be statistically unusual for a 2.5 cm colon cancer like the one discovered in Kazandjian in 2013 to have already metastasized, Buigas said, medical evidence would show that such cancers nonetheless occurred. “You’ll hear from the experts," Buigas said, "that cancer doesn’t follow any rules.”
Trial in the case is expected to last through next week.
Email Arlin Crisco at email@example.com.
Kazandjian and his family are represented by Gary Roberts & Associates’ Gary W. Roberts and Susan B. Ramsey.
Vastola and his medical practice are represented by Keith J. Puya and Hector Buigas, of The Law Offices of Keith J. Puya.
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