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Senior Health (cont.)

Common Medical Treatments and Tests for Seniors

An array of screening and preventive tests is available and recommended for people over the age of 65 (many doctors may suggest some of these at younger adults). These are recommended guidelines by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and are based on extensive clinical data.

Some of the important preventive and screening measures for seniors (and some adults) include:

  • Influenza (flu) vaccination
  • Pneumonia vaccination
  • Vaccination against shingles (herpes zoster)
  • Screening for colon cancer in adults between ages 50 and 75 ( or younger age in high risk groups such as African-Americans)
  • Screening for breast cancer with yearly mammogram for females between 40 and 75 (or younger starting in high risk groups)
  • Screening for prostate cancer with annual rectal exam and PSA (prostate sensitive antigen) in men above 50 (note , the PSA exam recommendation is undergoing revision in 2011, patients are advised to discuss this test with their physician before it is done)
  • Screening for osteoporosis with bone density scan in women above age of 65
  • Screening for lipid disorders and cholesterol yearly for men above 35 and women above 45
  • Screening for diabetes in people with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, or previous high blood sugar levels with or without symptoms of diabetes
  • Blood pressure screening at least once a year
  • Counseling for smoking cessation and alcohol reduction

Other screening tests for seniors often recommended by doctors are:

  • Vision and hearing exams
  • Skin cancer screening
  • Cardiac stress tests
  • Thyroid function tests
  • Mental status exam
  • Peripheral vascular disease screening

Many of these tests are recommended to be performed periodically. However, as people get older, the benefits of detecting certain conditions may diminish and further screening may be unnecessary. Sometimes potential risks of a certain test may outweigh its proposed benefits. Therefore, there are times when the right decision for an individual is to not have further testing for certain conditions. Each person's primary care physician or geriatrician can draft a personal health screening schedule. This is typically based on each individual's health history and shared decision making between the patient and the doctor.

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