Patients' stories

Why Test for a Condition you Don’t Intend to Treat?

Why Test for a Condition you Don’t Intend to Treat?

My dad is 79 years old and has survived three cancers. For years, he’s been saying that if he were to get another cancer, he didn’t want to be treated again.

Recently, my dad’s doctor recommended that he make an appointment for a colonoscopy. This didn’t make sense to me for a few reasons. First of all, even if they found cancer, my dad has been absolutely resolute in stating that he does not want to treat another cancer. Secondly, he’s had enough colonoscopies in his life to know that the preparation process causes him severe abdominal pain. For this reason, he absolutely dreads getting them. And thirdly, after doing research, I noted that the recommendations from the American Gastroenterological Association state that routine colonoscopies are not needed after age 75. So why, I wondered, was dad about to sign up for yet one more colonoscopy? “Because I thought I had to get it,” he told me.

We talked it through, and I told him that he didn’t have to get one. It’s important, I noted, to weigh the risks of medical tests and treatments and to think about whether they’ll help you more than they’ll hurt you. In my dad’s case, having the test done just didn’t seem like it would help him since even if the results did show cancer, he had already decided that he wouldn’t treat it. So with that all in mind, he called up his doctor and declined the test. In my opinion, he chose wisely.

Darla D., Wisconsin

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