Elders May be Given More Colonoscopies Than Needed, Agrees Elder Law Attorney
Bloomfield Hills, MI (Law Firm Newswire) June 20, 2013 – Too many seniors are being given colonoscopies too often, a new study states.
A recent study in the American Medical Association’s JAMA Internal Medicine stated that many seniors report “a strong moral obligation” when it comes to undergoing medical testing, even in their advanced years. But many medical professionals are advising them that the risks that come with screenings such as colonoscopies and other medical procedures may not be worth it.
Though all Americans are urged by multiple advocacy groups to begin colorectal cancer screening at age 50, little public awareness exists of when someone may wish to stop screening for cancer and some other diseases. In 2008, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force surveyed multiple years of research, and determined that routine screening for colorectal cancer after age 75 was unnecessary, and any screening was unnecessary in individuals over the age of 85.
“Screening for individuals over the age of 50 is common sense,” agrees Michigan elder law attorney Christopher Berry. “But there may be an age cap after which it simply is not necessary.”
Routine screening for the group most at risk is the best way to catch any issues early, say advocates. But though colonoscopies are not used often enough to catch colorectal cancers in those over 50, critics say they are being used as a screening tool on too many elderly patients.
In 2011, a study was overseen by geriatrician Dr. James Goodwin at the University of Texas Medical Branch. His study looked at a sample of Medicare beneficiaries from across the U.S. and researchers determined that seniors were typically given colonoscopies more often than generally recommended by medical guidelines.
A repeat test is suggested 10 years after a first negative colonoscopy, but the study showed that almost 50 percent of patients who had negative colonoscopies were given another within three-to-five years. Twenty-five percent of them were recommended when there had been no notable medical indication of potential concern.
Looking at 2008 – 2009 Medicare data for Texas-based patients above the age of 70 who underwent a screening colonoscopy, researchers found that 23 percent of the tests were “potentially inappropriate,” or performed with no overt medical issues or too soon after the last one.
Though screening can catch many issues, Goodwin agrees, colon cancer is such a slow-growing disease that for the very elderly, if it has not developed by a certain age, it likely will not be the disease to be concerned about. And with colonoscopies, even the prep can come with a certain amount of discomfort for older patients.
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