Doc: Weight loss may be a sign of colon cancer

Keith Roach
To Your Health

Dear Dr. Roach: I have colon cancer in my family (my grandfather and his only sibling). I have lost 20 pounds in eight months, and I feel nauseated and bloated. I had a colonoscopy seven years ago, with no problems.

My husband says there is no way I could have cancer, because my previous colonoscopy was OK, so I should wait three more years. What is your opinion?


Dear A.D.: It is absolutely appropriate for you to get evaluated for your symptoms. I don’t know whether they represent cancer, but weight loss of this degree is very concerning. I suspect your doctor will want to perform another colonoscopy.

Unfortunately, colon cancer could go from undetectable to advanced in as little as seven years. More importantly, even though a colonoscopy is probably the best screening test we have for cancer, it isn’t perfect, and even the best practitioner can miss a polyp.

It may be appropriate to have a screening colonoscopy every 10 years if the previous exam was completely normal, but you have symptoms, which means this isn’t screening — it’s an evaluation of your symptoms.

Email questions to