Our risk of cancer rises dramatically as we age. So it makes sense that the elderly should be routinely screened for new tumors — or doesn’t it?
While such vigilant tracking of cancer is a good thing in general, researchers are increasingly questioning whether all of this testing is necessary for the elderly. With the percentage of people over age 65 expected to nearly double by 2050, it’s important to weigh the health benefits of screening against the risks and costs of routine testing.
In many cases, screening can lead to surgeries to remove cancer, while the cancers themselves may be slow-growing and may not pose serious health problems in patients’ remaining years. But the message that everyone must screen for cancer has become so deep-rooted that when health care experts recommended that women under 50 and over 74 stop screening for breast cancer, it caused a riotous reaction among doctors, patients and advocacy groups.
It’s hard to uproot deeply held beliefs about cancer screening with scientific data. Certainly, there are people over age 75 who have had cancers detected by routine screening, and gained several extra years of life because of treatment. And clearly, people over age 75 who have other risk factors for cancer, such as a family history or prior personal experience with the disease, should continue to get screened regularly. But for the remainder, the risk of cancer, while increased at the end of life, must be balanced with other factors like remaining life expectancy.
A recent study suggests that doctors start to make more objective decisions about who will truly benefit from screening- especially considering the explosion of the elderly that will soon swell our population.
It’s not an easy calculation to make, but one that makes sense for all patients. Dr. Otis Brawley said, “Many doctors are ordering screening tests purely to cover themselves. We need to think about the rational use of health care.”
That means making some difficult decisions with elderly patients, and going against the misguided belief that when it comes to health care, more is always better.
62. Why do doctors recommend routine cancer screening for elderly people?
A) It is believed to contribute to long life.
B) It is part of their health care package.
C) The elderly are more sensitive about their health.
D) The elderly are in greater danger of tumor growth.
63. How do some researchers now look at routine cancer screening for the elderly?
A) It adds too much to their medical bills.
B) It helps increase their life expectancy.
C) They are doubtful about its necessity.
D) They think it does more harm than good.
64. What is the conventional view about women screening for breast cancer?
A) It applies to women over 50. C) It is optional for young women.
B) It is a must for adult women. D) It doesn’t apply to women over 74.
65. Why do many doctors prescribe routine screening for cancer?
A) They want to protect themselves against medical disputes.
B) They want to take advantage of the medical care system.
C) They want data for medical research.
D) They want their patients to suffer less.
66. What does the author say is the general view about health care?
A) The more, the better. C) Better early than late.
B) Prevention is better than cure. D) Better care, longer life.