Medical Q&As

Bowel problem - need for testing?

My father has been told he suffers from irritable bowel syndrome. No tests were done to out rule other possibilities. He was given tablets. Yesterday he was not feeling good and the doctor told him to stop taking some of the tablets to just stay on one and see how he feels. I am concerned about the lack of testing and the giving of tablets straight away. My father is 76 years old and his mother died of bowel cancer.

It is not always necessary to do tests in order to make a diagnosis. In fact if GPs referred more people to hospital for testing our over-loaded hospital system could not cope. There may well be factors in your fatherís history that has lead the doctor to make this diagnosis and treat him in this manner. It is also possible that your father is nervous about hospital investigations and has requested that the doctor treat him in this fashion and see how he gets on. Your father may even have flatly refused to go to hospital. I take your point about the family history of bowel cancer and the possible risk this entails for your father. If you feel that there is something more worrying going on with your fatherís health then you should discuss it with him. If he were not amenable to that it would be reasonable to talk to the family doctor and let him know of your concerns. You may be able to give additional information to the doctor that may have been lacking when your father attended him. People donít always tell the GP the full truth because they are afraid of the consequences. In particular many people fear that they may be sent to hospital and therefore leave out important points of detail in the history. If you decide to visit the GP you would also need to consider how is the GP going to use the additional information and how will your father react if he knows that you have divulged it.