Some patients are screened for colon cancer too frequently

Some patients are being screened for colon cancer more often than the recommended guidelines, according to a Reuters article. 

The article examines data from two studies in the Archives of Internal Medicine.  The first study found that about 1 in 4 Medicare patients followed for the study had a more than one screening colonoscopy within 7 years of each other, with no indication of medical necessity listed in their medical records.  The guidelines for colonoscopy screening recommend one colonoscopy every 10 years for patients over the age of 50.  

The second study examined veterans age 70 and older who tested positive for blood in their stool. Half of these patients went on to have a colonoscopy within 7 years, which can more accurately diagnose colon cancer.  However, half of these patients died within five years from other causes, calling into question the necessity for these screening tests for patients who do not have a long life expectancy. 

The studies both recommend systematic reviews of colorectal cancer screening guidelines.

(Sources: Kaiser Daily Health Policy Project,, May 10, 2011; Reuters,, May 9, 2011, The Archives of Internal Medicine,, May 9, 2011)