Getting a colonoscopy once every ten years has become somewhat of a necessary evil for those people over 50 years old who wish to stay healthy and cancer-free. Despite the discomfort and mild embarrassment associated with the procedure, many elders are taking the advice of their doctors and getting regular colon cancer screenings--so regularly in fact, that concerns have been raised that they are getting colonoscopies too frequently.
A study, conducted by researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch, has uncovered some startling statistics regarding the number of unnecessary colonoscopies conducted on Medicare enrollees.
The prevailing medical opinion is that, if there are no polyps found during a screening and a person doesn't have a family history of colon cancer, then they only need to have a colonoscopy once every ten years.
However, upon examination of over 24,000 Medicare beneficiaries, 24% were found to have received more than one colonoscopy in seven years for no apparent medical reason.
This is a sobering finding considering that unnecessary colonoscopies not only tax the financial capacity of Medicare, but can also put a person at greater risk for complications associated with the procedure.
A colonoscopy is not a test that should be undertaken lightly; especially for someone who is of advanced age.
While developments in medical technology have made the procedure less and less invasive over the years, it is still a test that carries certain risks with it—especially if polyps are found that have to be removed or biopsied for examination. This risk becomes increasingly salient as a person ages, and there does come a point where the benefits of the test are outweighed by the potential complications.
When deciding on whether to personally undergo or encourage an elder to undergo a medical test it is important to get all of the information you possibly can about the procedure and its associated risks. Weigh those risks against the senior's overall general health, mental status and personal health goals. Ultimately, if a colonoscopy reveals a serious health diagnosis that a senior is unwilling to treat, the test may be sought inappropriately.