The last thing a dying man or woman needs to worry about is an illness that might hurt them decades down the road.
Yet for some reason -- probably greed -- a shocking number of terminal patients are still being screened for breast and prostate cancers.
Researchers examined the records of Medicare patients aged 65 and up who had been diagnosed with advanced lung, colorectal, pancreatic and other cancers--cancers that left them with just a few years to live, and in some cases probably weeks or months.
Then, they compared the records to the same number of Medicare patients without terminal cancers.
The researchers found that 9 percent of women with incurable cancers were given mammograms versus 22 percent of healthy women, and 5.8 percent of the terminal patients were given Pap tests versus 12.5 percent of healthy women.
They also found that 15 percent of men with terminal cancers were still getting PSA tests, versus 27.2 percent of healthy patients, according to the study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
It's beyond outrage.
Those screenings don't just represent unnecessary tests for terminal patients. They represent wasted time for people who should be allowed to make every second count.
Each needless screening means time spent in a waiting room full of strangers instead of a living room with friends and loved ones. They represent small talk with nurses and lab techs instead of meaningful conversations with those closest to them.
And I don't even want to think about the time wasted, moments lost and suffering added if any of those screenings led to actual treatments for breast or prostate cancers.
The researchers say the patients who were screened were also more likely to have been screened in the years before their terminal diagnosis, so they may simply be in the habit.
But that's no excuse--because their doctors should be working to ensure that their final months and years are spent in comfort and ease... not worrying about cancers that can't possibly hurt them.
Of course, it's not just the dying who don't need these screenings. You probably don't yourself--and even the mainstream guidelines are slowing being updated to reflect that reality.
We've made so much progress when it comes to cutting back on needless cancer screenings--but as the new study shows, we still have quite a ways to go.