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Are Colonoscopies Risky For Seniors?

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Are Colonoscopies Risky For Seniors?

Colonoscopies performed on seniors 70 years of age and older may be of little benefit according to a new study 1.

These procedures tend to expose individuals to unnecessary risks. The colon cancer screening test may be considered inappropriate if performed more often than recommended or administered to seniors 75 or older.

Data from Medicare claims in Texas revealed that 23.4% of colonoscopies were not needed.

Where patients live and what physician they see affect the likelihood of undergoing an inappropriate procedure, said study researcher Kristin Sheffield, an assistant professor of surgery at the University of Texas Medical Branch. “For some physicians, more than 30 percent of the colonoscopies they performed were potentially inappropriate according to screening guidelines,” she said.

The amount of variation between physicians in the study “suggests that there are some providers who are overusing colonoscopy for screening purposes in older adults,” Sheffield said.

The United States Preventive Services Task Force recommends that individuals who are not at high risk of colon cancer begin regular checkups at 50. For those who choose a colonoscopy as as creening method, the procedure should only be done every 10 years, and is not necessary past the age of 75.

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Notes:

  1. The study was published March 11th 2013 in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.