The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Food & Health

August 16, 2013

Elders can skip screening

DEAR DR. ROACH: Would you be kind enough to give me your opinion on colonoscopy? I last had one done three years ago, and there were no problems. I am approaching 87 years, and am enjoying good health. I have heard pros and cons of colonoscopy at my age. — A.L.

ANSWER: Colonoscopy is probably the most effective screening tool for colon cancer. There is no doubt that screening for colon cancer between the ages of 50 and 70 saves lives, although colonoscopy has both costs and risks. As we get older, risks increase. Since it takes, on average, seven to 10 years for a polyp to become a cancer, when a person’s life expectancy is less than 10 years, it doesn’t make sense to do a colonoscopy. The average life expectancy for an 87-year-old is five or six years, but you don’t sound like the average 87-year-old.

An alternate approach might be the use of stool cards, which look for evidence of microscopic bleeding. Only if they are positive would you get a colonoscopy. That would avoid much of the risk of colonoscopy, which can include perforation of the colon by the scope. Stopping screening also is a reasonable option, since yours have shown no problems.

The booklet on colon cancer provides useful information on the causes and cures of this common malady. Readers can obtain a copy by writing: Dr. Roach — No. 505, Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.75 U.S./$6 Can. with the recipient’s printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.

DEAR DR. ROACH: I am 67 years old, and have had abdominal bloating for a while. I made a gastroenterologist appointment, and was recommended a low-FODMAP diet! The food list the gastroenterologist gave me is quite incomplete — and restaurant combination foods are a real problem. Is there a better, more complete food list out there? Is this something new? Thanks for any comments for those of us who suffer with extreme bloating! — Anon.

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