Geriatric Health Care Screening

A recent commentary written by Liz Szabo for Kaiser Health News discusses some of the issues relating to benefits and risks associated with cancer screening for the elderly.

In her article, she states that, according to the American Journal of Public Health, nearly one in five women, with severe cognitive impairment, including older patients, are still getting mammograms, even though they are not recommended for people with limited life expectancy.

In the same vein, a study in JAMA Internal Medicine indicated that 55% of older men with a risk of death over the next decade still get PSA tests for prostate cancer.

An increasing number of geriatricians, cancer specialists and health systems analysts are suggesting that aggressive testing in the nation’s older patients is highly unlikely to detect lethal disease, is hugely expensive and is more likely to harm than help, since any follow-up testing and treatment are likely to be invasive.

This raises some interesting questions that include issues of ethics, incentives, costs and patient comfort.

Something to think about as we get older.

All comments and suggestions are welcome.

Walter J. Kirchberger, CFA®