Colonoscopy safe for octogenarians

Colonoscopies effectively look for colon cancer and remove pre-cancerous polyps in people as old as 90.

Colonoscopy can be safely and effectively used to look for colon cancer and remove pre-cancerous polyps in people as old as 90, according to doctors at the Rabin Medical Center-Hasharon Campus. After that age, people who need such a test should undergo "virtual colonoscopy" a non-invasive computerized scan. Dr. Hemda Weiss, a senior Hasharon gastroenterologist who headed the study, and her team examined 21 men and 22 women ranging in age from 90 to 97 who had undergone a colonoscopy, in which an endoscope is introduced into the rectum and pushed to the upper end of the large intestine to look for growths. They compared success rates with two control groups who had undergone colonoscopies one aged 50 to 59 and another aged 70 to 79. Both of the younger groups underwent the full scan without any immediate complications, Weiss reports in the latest issue of Orek Rashi, the Rabin Medical Center's monthly newsletter. Those over 90 did not have immediate complications either, but in 35% of them doctors were unable to complete the colonoscopy because the large intestine was twisted and is less flexible in this age group. This happened in only 16% of those aged 70 to 79. Patients of any age who suffered from anemia (low iron levels) were also less likely to have a full colonoscopy. The older the patient, the more likely they were to have pre-cancerous polyps and malignant growths in the colon. Weiss said that if a virtual colonoscopy in nonagenarians produces suspicious results, these patients should undergo a conventional colonoscopy to remove tissue for a biopsy. COMPUTERS RAISE ELDERS' SPIRITS Older people who use computers report fewer symptoms of depression than their peers who are not so technologically connected, according to New York research presented at the recent annual convention of the American Psychological Association. The data regarding computer use and depressive symptoms was collected as part of the latest wave of an ongoing longitudinal study designed to determine the changes over time in physical health, mental health and social activity of seniors living in Greenwich Village in lower Manhattan. Dr. Edward Cisek and Dr. Kathleen Triche, who presented the study's findings at the Washington conference, said computer use seemed to give older adults a stronger connection with the world around them via e-mail, chat rooms and health information gathering. After controlling for a number of background characteristics, the researchers found that among 206 seniors with a mean age of 80, those who were computer users reported significantly fewer depressive symptoms than their counterparts who were not. "Clearly, those older adults in this study who use computers report fewer depressive symptoms, regardless of how many hours per week they use the computers," Triche said cautioning, however, that these findings are among a generally highly educated group residing in a limited geographic area. Future research should include more diverse populations and use other measures of social connectiveness.