America can’t wait for new colon cancer screening options

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) seeks to improve health in America by recommending how to best prevent disease. Unfortunately, its just-released draft guidelines for preventing colon cancer appear to reinforce known barriers to screening by failing to endorse new screening methods for individuals unable or unwilling to have a colonoscopy.

Last year the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Cologuard, a stool-based DNA test; however, the USPSTF did not endorse the test. While the USPSTF notes that the DNA test is significantly better at finding colon cancer than the traditional stool test, it is concerned that it may have more false positives, resulting in potential “harm” from additional colonoscopies. The health risk from a colonoscopy is miniscule and the risk from missing colon cancer could be fatal; we are at a loss to understand why the USPSTF considers avoiding an unnecessary colonoscopy of greater importance than improving the detection of colon cancer.

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The USPSTF’s failure to embrace new screening methods doesn’t stop with the DNA test — it also fails to endorse CT colonography, sometimes called a virtual colonoscopy. This test is an important option for patients unable or unwilling to have a colonoscopy. President Obama was screened with CT colonography to avoid unnecessary sedation. Apparently CT colonography is an appropriate screening method for the president but not for other Americans.

The USPSTF’s draft guidelines present yet another barrier to the millions of Americans who are already unwilling or unable to have a colonoscopy. By failing to endorse the DNA stool test and CT colonography, the task force has potentially sidelined these proven, less-invasive screening tools. Every day an average of 100 Americans die from colon cancer, a disease that is largely preventable with timely screening. We have waited seven years for the USPSTF to update its screening guidelines — Americans simply cannot afford to wait another seven to get it right.

From Eric Hargis, CEO, Colon Cancer Alliance, Washington, D.C.


Climate change requires smart, moral and affordable policies

Failing to rely on our moral centers when we act in the public sphere has enormous consequences (“The harm Exxon Mobil has done,” Nov. 4, by Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) and Naomi Oreskes).

Too many in the U.S. turn away from climate change concerns out of fear or despair; we know that here in America and around the globe people are already suffering from the changes to our warming world, and we’d rather not look. Tragically, many of those being hit hardest by the effects of climate change are among the most vulnerable populations, and have contributed very little to the greenhouse gas pollution impacting their lives. 

The good news is that individual actions help — they build hope as well as momentum; they signal to markets and lawmakers that we are serious about taking urgent, courageous action.

At the policy level, we have no business subsidizing the fossil fuel industries that are harming us, and in some cases lying to us. We should be investing in sensible climate policies. The costs of warming we are already feeling will hit future generations with much more devastating force. We must take responsible action today.

It’s time for people of all faiths, led by the wisdom and scripture of their varied traditions, to demand the smart, moral and affordable policies on climate change needed to secure the safety and prosperity of our communities, our country and our world. The alternatives are far too costly.

From Cricket Eccleston Hunter, Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light, State College, Pa.