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Seniors Getting Unnecessary Colonoscopies: Study
Date:3/11/2013

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, March 11 (HealthDay News) -- Almost a quarter of the colonoscopies done on seniors each year may not be necessary, a new study by University of Texas researchers suggests.

Colonoscopy is the "gold standard" screening for colorectal cancer, but guidelines from different groups vary, patients may pressure doctors to get the test even though they don't need it and some doctors are unaware of the guidelines, the researchers said in explaining their findings.

The team looked at Medicare records in Texas, along with a nationwide sampling of screening colonoscopies that were done on those aged 70 and older in 2008-2009. Using age-based screening guidelines or results from an earlier screening, 23.4 percent of the colonoscopies were what they called potentially inappropriate.

"This is important information for patients and their providers, who should be aware of screening guidelines and the risks of colonoscopy screening in older patients," said lead researcher Kristin Sheffield, an assistant professor at the university's Medical Branch in Galveston.

"We hope that there will be efforts to align screening practices with current guidelines, perhaps through better communication between gastroenterologists and primary care physicians, and public education campaigns to correct misperceptions by patients and physicians regarding cancer screening," she added.

Generally, a screening colonoscopy, as opposed to a diagnostic colonoscopy, is done after age 50, and if no polyps are found, is not done again for another 10 years. If polyps are found or there is a family history of colon cancer, then the follow-up screenings are recommended more frequently.

Doctors may not follow the guidelines for a number of reasons, Sheffield said.

"There may be a request from a patient or referring physician; poor communication between gastroenterologists and primary car
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