How old is too old for preventative screening? The answer is there is no magic number

Nikki Sommer, a nurse with Key West Surgical Group, joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5 FM for Medical Matters this morning.

There are times when people can be told they are too old to have a colonoscopy or a mammogram.

Sommer said, “But that’s not the case. Not if you have quality of life. We’ve run into this in the practice a couple of times where now we have some older patients that if you look at them they look amazing for their age, but they were told 10 years ago you don’t need to have another colonoscopy and now that person has colon cancer and another one has breast cancer.”

So you really can’t put an age on preventative care.

Sommer said, “If you’re somebody that does preventative care routinely and you feel like you should keep going, you need to. If you want to.”

For mammograms and pap smears, there really is no downside for continuing the screening.

Sommer noted, “Sometimes when it’s colonoscopies and there’s anesthesia involved they worry about your age and the heart, but if you’re in physically good condition and you’re mentally sound and you take care of yourself, it really doesn’t matter what your age is. It’s quality of life.”

If there is a family history of breast cancer or colon cancer, screenings should continue as long as someone is willing.

Sommer said, “As you get older, it’s your choice what you want to continue or not, but if you’re somebody who did it routinely, don’t let someone deter you. When it comes time for that screening again, look at how you are and think about I could do it again or what if. Because as we get older the chances of us getting cancer don’t get less. It gets greater.”

At this point, 60 is the new 30.

Sommer said, “I say 80 is the new 70. I see people that are 70 and I’m like wow they don’t look like they’re 70. My in-laws are 80. They’re not 80 to me.”

Sometimes the screenings can provide a peace of mind the older we get.

Sommer said, “If you’re enjoying life, you know you only get to walk this earth once. So if you’re enjoying it, keep doing the things you need to do to keep walking.”

Symptoms or a change in health should definitely be something that would make a person consider a screening.

Sommer said, “Don’t put it off. There’s an end to everyone at some point, but to make it less painful or more comfortable as we get older, that’s what we have to look at.”

Albert Einstein had a number of quotes that are quite profound.

One is live life to the fullest. You have to color outside the lines once in a while if you want to make your life a masterpiece.

Another is your life is like a Picasso. It is priceless.

Sommer said, “When people put off things because life is hectic and it gets in the way, another big thing is somebody’s putting off their health because they’re responsible for taking care of somebody else. Sometimes you have a find a balance because if something happens to you and that family member relies on you, then they’re worse off and you’re worse off.”

Benefits and risks of procedures can certainly be discussed with your doctor.

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