Harvard Health Letter

By the way, doctor: Can I stop getting colonoscopies?

Q. At age 60 I was treated for colon cancer. Since then I've had regular colonoscopies with no further sign of colon cancer. I'm now 84 and healthy. Does it make sense to get another colonoscopy?

A. It's a good question. Discontinuing surveillance colonoscopies in people with a history of colon cancer has never, to the best of my knowledge, been systematically addressed. What would be important to know in making any recommendation would be the precise results of the intervening exams. Since you had cancer, you've probably had five to six colonoscopies. The value of such colonoscopies is the detection and removal of polyps that might eventually lead to cancer. Does "no further sign of colon cancer" mean no polyps in any of those tests? If it does, then I'd probably advise you as I would an octogenarian who hadn't had colon cancer.

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