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Fear cancer, not safe screenings

To the editor:

Sonya Padgett writes in Sunday’s Review-Journal Living section that of the top 13 reasons Las Vegas is a “scary place to live,” colonoscopies top the list. It’s definitely a scary time for Las Vegas, but not for the reason Ms. Padgett suggests.

The damage that the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada has done to the reputation of medical care in Southern Nevada has been well-described in this newspaper and other media. However, the intensive inspections that have ensued and protocols developed have made Las Vegas one of the safest places for endoscopy in the United States.

The second most common cause of death from cancer in both men and women is death from metastatic colon cancer. We estimate that there were 1,120 new cases of colon cancer and 490 deaths from colon cancer in 2007 in Nevada. Fewer Latinos, American Indians and African-Americans are screened, and African-Americans have a higher death rate from colon cancer.

Some facts to keep in mind:

— All colon cancers are believed to develop in benign polyps.

— If everyone had all of their polyps removed, no one would develop colon cancer.

— Evidence suggests that 85 to 90 percent of polyps are removed during a well-prepped colonoscopy.

— Survival is dependent on early detection.

Nevada had among the lowest screening rates in the country before the scandal developed, with less than 50 percent of those at risk getting screened.

Colonoscopy is not the only screening tool available. Radiographic and stool analysis can also detect early cancers and polyps. However, the “gold standard” remains a colonoscopy, which can reduce the chances of colon cancer death up to 90 percent, and remains the only therapeutic intervention because polypectomy can be performed at the same time.

Since the hepatitis outbreak that resulted from this year’s clinic scandals, screening rates have declined because of the public’s fear of this procedure, and it has been exacerbated by physician shortages in gastroenterology.

The Nevada Colon Cancer Screening Task Force is a group of doctors, nurses, community leaders and public health officials concerned about this worrisome trend. We have targeted the physician shortage, assistance for the uninsured, self-referral programs and public education to address this problem. Top among the initiatives is to reduce the “scare factor” with the procedure.

We are all anxious for the Board of Medical Examiners, the district attorney, the attorney general, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to complete their investigations. In the meantime, I remain scared that unnecessary deaths will continue from colon cancer.

Frank J. Nemec, M.D.

LAS VEGAS

School cuts

To the editor:

I think Gov. Jim Gibbons and the Legislature should reconsider cutting any more money from our schools budget. It took years to get going some of these programs that our children so desperately need. A lot of children and people are going to be hurt by these budget cuts.

One solution would be to have a state lottery. The money collected in each county would go to that county’s school district. Also, if the casinos are worried that a lottery would take revenue from them, then make it so you can buy lottery tickets only in a place that holds a gaming license.

Makes sense to me.

Cutting school budgets is just wrong.

Patrick Campbell

LAS VEGAS

Term limits

To the editor:

Many problems currently facing this country are being attributed to George W. Bush and his administration. However, I believe that many of those problems have been caused by the lack of leadership in our stumbling, inept and self-serving Congress, which is full of corruption, cronyism and cover-ups.

There is no honesty or integrity in dealing with the wants of the taxpayer. The only profession with less respect than elected government officials is lawyers. But since most elected officials are also lawyers, that explains the problem.

Our elected officials no longer represent the wishes of the people who sent them to Washington. They answer to special-interest groups, friends and themselves. This needs to be eliminated, and the best way to do that is through term limits, thus eliminating career politicians. Perhaps, if such limitations were in effect, government would get back to “of the people, by the people and for the people.”

A constitutional amendment in the 2010 election would solve the problem forever.

DONALD F. VANICA

MESQUITE

Juxtaposed

To the editor:

I trust that other Review-Journal readers shared in the joke that the editorial page staff perpetrated by placing Erin Neff’s Tuesday column on the same page as Orson Scott Card’s “Would the last honest reporter turn on the lights?”

His last line, “You’re just the public relations machine of the Democratic Party,” is my closing argument.

Tim Kauffman

LAS VEGAS

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