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Question : Is there an age limit for a colonoscopy? My 93-year-old father was bleeding from the rectum. We got conflicting opinions on whether he should have a screening colonoscopy.
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The Trusted Source
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Howard LeWine, M.D.

Howard LeWine, M.D., is chief editor of Internet Publishing, Harvard Health Publications. He is a clinical instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital. Dr. LeWine has been a primary care internist and teacher of internal medicine since 1978.

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October 18, 2013
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Screening for a disease means that the person has no symptoms. Since your father has had rectal bleeding, a colonoscopy would not be considered a screening test in this case. It would be a diagnostic test.

Whether he should have it now or wait to see if he has more bleeding depends upon many factors. Most importantly, his doctor should explain  why it might benefit him to have the test and what the risks are. If he is mentally capable, he can then make a decision. If his thinking abilities are impaired and he is not capable of making this decision, then his health care proxy will need to decide for him. (A health care proxy is the person given the legal authority by the patient to make medical decisions.)

The most important question is whether anything found on the colonoscopy will lead to treatment that improves his quality of life.

It comes down to two things:

If he is actively bleeding and it can't be controlled, then he probably should have the colonoscopy to try to stop the bleeding. The continued bleeding would make him weak and might require transfusions.

If he is not actively bleeding and the test will not lead to a diagnosis and treatment that improves his quality of life, it is quite reasonable to hold off on doing the colonoscopy for now.

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