Previous articles in this series have covered when to start colorectal cancer screening (age 50 for most people), the best test to find and prevent colorectal cancer (colonoscopy), and how often to repeat normal colonoscopies (every 10 years). In this last installment, we will discuss when to stop screening for colorectal cancer.
It is sometimes an awkward conversation to have, but the truth is that at a certain age, we eventually stop checking people for things that may cause them future harm. Think of it this way: A healthy 50-year-old person may have another 30-40 years of life ahead of them, so it makes sense to ensure that they won't get their life cut short by a somewhat preventable thing like colon cancer. A healthy 87-year-old, statistically speaking, may only have another few months or years of life left before the clock runs out. So finding a small colon polyp that may take another 10 years to grow into a cancer doesn't make much sense, since there are competing causes of mortality that will more likely claim this patient's life by the age of 97 (namely heart disease, dementia, stroke, falls, pneumonia, other cancers...you get the drift).