Thursday, February 21, 2013

When Is Someone Too Old for A Colonoscopy?

I have a dilemma.  Time for some caregiving fun....

My mother in law, who is in her mid-80's, got her annual physical last week.  Her doctor, who is a new doctor to her (her family doctor of many years retired last year), wants her to get a colonoscopy.

There is no medical problem leading to this request.

The last time she had one (7 years ago) she experienced a lot of discomfort.  But, more importantly, she has mobility issues.  She's supposed to use a walker.  Her balance is terrible.  Her bathroom is upstairs from her living area and she has a bad knee.

 I've had a colonoscopy twice and also had to do the same prep once for a different exam.  So I know "the prep drill" all too well.  So I know what an ordeal it would be for her.  I honestly do not know if she would be able to complete it.  At her age, I wouldn't be too crazy about the sedation, either.

I understand the doctor considered a virtual colonoscopy, but said Medicare wouldn't pay for it. (He's right - I checked.) I also read up on virtual colonoscopies.  According to what I read, she only misses the sedation fun, not the prep fun.  Still has to prep.  If they find anything,she needs the regular one, so has to prep again. Ugh.

I know none of my readers can give medical advice. So, I am asking: where can I get RELIABLE information to see if she really should go through this ordeal?

Or, if there is an "alternative" type of prep that could be done? (she lives near a major metropolitan area).

I've done some reading indicating an age 85 cut off for this test.

Can my readers help me research this?  There is so much unreliable medical information on the Internet.

Have you ever questioned a test a doctor wants to give?


14 comments:

  1. Your poor mother in law! I understand that doctors want to do everything possible to help their patients, but if she isn't exhibiting any problems in this regard, I would tell him "No". My mother refused the last time they wanted to give her one, and recently we agreed with my sister in law that my mother in law didn't need to go through that kind of distress (she will be 92 in April and has no problems in this area either). I will ask if any of my friends know where to research this for you, but I really think it becomes a personal decision if there isn't a solid medical reason for the test... Sending you hugz, my friend!

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    1. Dear Sandi, thank you for stopping by! From you and other readers, I have decided to recommend to my mother in law that she not schedule this. Thank you for the virtual hugz!

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  2. As one of the inventors of the "prep" to which you refer, I do not see the value of such an ordeal for your mom. Yes, it is terrible if she were to die from colon cancer. But, there are "occult" tests that can determine if this is even necessary.
    Polyps won't be detected... but given your mom's condition, that may be a reasonable omission.

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    1. Oh Mr. A, you are a national treasure! I'm going to recommend to her that she not undergo this procedure, based on the feedback of my wonderful readers. Now, please tell me you didn't also came up with the name Golyghtly - please tell me it isn't so! (And thank you for the tweet!)

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  3. I've been asked to get one done too, for more than 3 years now since I'm about to turn 53. I never went for the initial exam, so unfortunately I can't give you any insight.

    I do know they want you to get them done because of colon cancer and such, but at my age, I could care less. When it's time to go, it's time to go!

    Hopefully you'll get some answers soon!

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    1. It isn't a fun exam, true, but my best friend's life was saved by a virtual colonoscopy. I personally feel it is a life saving test - the problem is, this test does put a stress on the body and at some point - you have to wonder, is it worth the risk?

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  4. I'm so not up on things like this. :( I really wish I could help.

    Perhaps you could find a doctor to get a second opinion?

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    1. I thank you for caring, and commenting. Based on several of the other comments, and some reading I did (for example I found a NY Times blog with a pertinent post), I will recommend she not do it. Of course, it is her decision, but she had a lot of concerns, too.

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  5. My mom, 88 in July, was warned that aged body parts can tear easily. What can a colonoscopy gain her at this age? Not sure of that answer. If she doesn't have a history need I say skip it.

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    1. After internet reading, and everyone's comments (including those who led me to think about a couple of things I hadn't even thought of) I am going to recommend that she not undergo the procedure. You, and my other readers, are the best!

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  6. My mom is 82 years old and in good health. But she is 82 and if a colonoscopy found an abnormality, would she be physically strong enough to go through major surgery. Just a thought. Good luck.

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    1. Leslie, that is a good thought. She has a bad knee, as I mentioned, and when she asked her orthopedist several months ago, after shots failed, if knee replacement would ever be a possibility for her, he flat out said no - due to her age, the surgery was too risky. Thank you for your caring comment.

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  7. I've had both a regular colonoscopy and a virtual one. Both were messy and painful. The virtual colonoscopy actually has a slightly less extensive prep so that's a plus. But when they pump you full of gas, it hurts! Still, it seems less risky and will probably become standard in a few years.

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  8. Colon cancer is cancer of the large intestine (colon), the lower part of your digestive system. Rectal cancer is cancer of the last 8 to 10 inches of the colon. Together, they are often referred to as colorectal cancers , and they make up the second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. Only lung cancer claims more lives.

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