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MDs should screen for cognitive impairment in seniors only if symptoms: task force

TORONTO — Updated guidelines for doctors say there is no benefit in screening patients aged 65 and older for mild cognitive impairment unless they have symptoms like memory loss.

The Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care says a review of international studies found no evidence that screening is beneficial, and it may have possible harms.

Dr. Kevin Pottie, chairman of the task force working group that updated the 2001 guidelines, says a quarter of patients given standard tests for mild cognitive impairment are misdiagnosed.

Pottie says the diagnosis can create anxiety and cause some patients to change their living arrangements or give up jobs for fear they are developing dementia.

But while some people with mild cognitive impairment go on to develop dementia, others remain the same and some actually improve over time.

Pottie says there's no evidence that dementia drugs, vitamins and supplements improve memory or other brain-related deficits in people with the condition, but exercise and cognitive training may have a minor benefit.

"While the task force recommends against screening older community-living adults for cognitive impairment, physicians should investigate if patients or their family members express concern about possible memory loss," he said.

"This recommendation is for adults without symptoms, not for people with concerns."

The new guidelines were published Monday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal and are available online at http://www.canadiantaskforce.ca.

Follow @SherylUbelacker on Twitter.

Sheryl Ubelacker, The Canadian Press

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