When to see a doctor

By Mayo Clinic Staff

If you're losing weight without trying and you're concerned about it, consult your health care provider. As a rule of thumb, losing more than 5% of your weight over 6 to 12 months may indicate a problem. If you're an older adult with other medical conditions and health issues, even a smaller amount of weight loss may be significant.

Your health care provider can work with you to try to determine what's causing the weight loss. You'll likely start with a thorough discussion of your symptoms, medications, general mental and physical health, and medical conditions. Also, your provider will probably do a physical exam.

Your health care provider also will likely review any recent cancer screenings you may have had. These can include a colon cancer screening test, breast exam and mammogram, or a prostate exam. This can help determine if additional testing is needed.

Your provider may also discuss changes in your diet or appetite and sense of taste and smell. These can affect your eating and weight and may be related to some medical conditions.

Your health care provider may order blood and urine tests that can give information about your general health. You may have other tests based on these results. Imaging scans to look for hidden cancers are not usually done unless some other clue in addition to weight loss points in that direction.

Sometimes, if the basic evaluation does not identify a cause, watchful waiting for 1 to 6 months is a reasonable next step. Your health care provider may suggest that you stop any restrictive dieting. You may need a special diet to prevent further weight loss or to regain lost pounds. Your provider can refer you to a dietitian who can offer suggestions on getting enough calories.

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Aug. 17, 2022

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