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Many seniors get unnecessary and potentially harmful cancer tests

August 19, 2014

About the Author

photo of Howard E. LeWine, MD

Howard E. LeWine, MD, Chief Medical Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

Howard LeWine, M.D., is a practicing internist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Chief Medical Editor at Harvard Health Publishing, and editor in chief of Harvard Men’s Health Watch. See Full Bio
View all posts by Howard E. LeWine, MD


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Dr Puneet Chandna
October 10, 2014

Over-diagnosis and unnecessary testing could just be due to a shot gun approach that many clinicians follow in their daily practice.

A-1 Domestic
September 17, 2014

The purpose of screening is prevention. Doctors should only recommend, but if patients refuse, they should not be scared into doing it nor should doctors insist until they bend their patients’ will.

September 14, 2014

Also, seniors have to make sure they tell their doctors if they are taking PSA lowering medications such as Flomax, Finasteride or Avodart when they get a blood test or prostate cancer screening. These medications can affect PSA test results.

skin tightening
September 3, 2014

Very very nice post.I am agree with this post.The seniors has more experience.But sometimes people scary to test screening cancer, they afraid of the result if the result is unwanted.Thanks a lot for sharing this post.

Wounded Warrior
September 1, 2014

I think it goes beyond seniors, it’s an epedemic in America and the direct outcome of technology in the medical field. Our orthodox medicine is broken, we over treat with expensive procedures because doctors get paid extra to push these machines on patients. The entire system is broken and it starts with our government being controlled by corporations.

As an architect I’ve done a major research project on medical facilities and why American health is so poor, all I have to say is follow the money. And look at the pharmecutical companies. We are the only country who allows pharmecutical company’s to advertise to the general population. We are a dependent society folks

Vince Miraglia
August 29, 2014

Is it surprising that a revenue stream that benefits providers is overused. Physicians see great profit in $ceening test greatly overestimate benefit : consistently minimize damage caused …perhaps in future post you can address such well thought out ideas as beta blockers before surgery…Really about a large amount of the medical cost is for ……..

Betty Sherman
August 22, 2014

My mother developed breast cancer at 80, was treated and lived happily to 93. My doctor agrees that at 81 I should continue mammograms every two years. I am healthy, excercise and eat sensibly. I lead a full active life and that is due to a knee replacement I had 3 years ago.

August 21, 2014

C Hendershott (Aug. 21) tells it like it is; the bureaucrats think old people should suffer and die, and that they don’t deserve a decent quality of life just because they are elderly.

C Hendershott
August 21, 2014

Well, of course if you don’t test people (and old folks are still people…), there will be fewer diagnoses and fewer treatments –expensive or cheap. Want to save money from grammy’s estate, keep her away from all doctors, tests, and treatments. Wouldn’t want her to enjoy her old age by having her knees replaced…. She would only use them for ten years anyway.
Never mind that older people are living independently and well for more years as time goes on. Cut off treatment at 65 anyway. The bureaucrats and bean counters love it.

Don’t want a baby that is going to need time and attention? Have an abortion…, convenient, efficient. Got a mother or grandmother that is inconvenient? Take away medical care now or pass a rule against looking for health problems that are treatable. If you don’t look, you won’t find any. Problem solved.
Just remember, someday, if you are lucky, you too may live long enough to enjoy a long life.

Ms Gael
August 21, 2014

My 89-year-old mother-in-law had a mammogram at the insistance of her doctor. I think this is almost malpractice.

Vince Miraglia
August 29, 2014

I agree even worst running test like bone density test on terminal patients.

fernin c miranda
August 21, 2014


Rahmania Farid
August 21, 2014

But sometimes people scary to test screening cancer, they afraid of the result if the result is unwanted.

Sam Miller
August 20, 2014

Unfortunately, it isn’t just “senior” members that often get unnecessary cancer screening tests. It’s a general occurrence, mostly because of significant overdiagnosis. As long as the reigning theories of cancer development are steeped heavily in medical dogma instead of sound science (discussed in Rolf Hefti’s “The Mammogram Myth”), this trend of harm infliction continues unabated.

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