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Doctors and medical organizations often advise that past a certain age, older adults can forgo various screening tests for cancer. But many patients, no matter how old or sick they may be, are reluctant to abandon tests they’ve long been told can be lifesaving.

To be sure, among my close circle of septuagenarian friends, none of us have stopped getting annual mammograms, even though I, having previously had breast cancer, am likely to be the only one among them for whom the potential benefit might conceivably outweigh the risks.

I’ve met people with no known risk for colorectal cancer who continue to get colonoscopies well past the age of established recommendations. Not to mention the countless men at low risk for prostate cancer who continue to get PSA tests, often at the suggestion of their doctors, when the best evidence says that for such men the test can result in more harm than good.

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Image: By CSIRO, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=35497345

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