• Dr. Oz's Colonoscopy Chronicles

    I don't know whether to laugh or cry when hectored by the well-meaning Dr. Mehmet Oz to get regular cancer screenings [June 13]. I am 62 with a part-time job and no health insurance. How am I to pay for tests? And if cancer is discovered, what on earth can I, and the many people like me, do about it?

    Annette Harper, NEW ORLEANS

    As a medical technologist in microbiology who is always trying to describe to my friends and others what I do and what importance it has, I appreciate your ability to use simple terminology, props and demonstrations to demystify and explain health and medical issues.

    Lori Lohrenz, WICHITA, KANS.

    I am a survivor of chronic myelogenous leukemia, successfully treated with two bone-marrow transplants. Before diagnosis, I, like Oz, was very healthy. Although Oz's story stressing screenings will be helpful to some, I was dismayed by his initial reaction to his possible cancer. "Am I at fault? Could I have done something differently?" Coming from an influential physician, this statement promulgates a societal tendency to blame the victim for a diagnosis of cancer. Believe me, no cancer patient needs to be subjected to this notion by anyone, especially treating physicians.

    Ellen Werts, MARANA, ARIZ.

    Sorry, guys. Having lost a dear friend to colon cancer and being a breast cancer survivor, I must say that Oz's cancer "scare" was a nonstory. We can all relate to how it would feel to have a cancer scare. But the true stories lie with those who have faced the real deal. Sadly, many of those stricken with cancer are no longer with us to recount them. That is reason enough to have the necessary cancer screenings.

    Dianne Stuckman, GIBSONIA, PA.

    Cancer Treatment Declined

    I loved "The Refuseniks," by Ruth Davis Konigsberg [June 13]. Recently, my elderly, blind aunt refused a colonoscopy, and she couldn't understand why everyone was so upset with her. Your article definitely gave us a new perspective on why many physicians automatically recommend tests and treatments. As in the case of the 80-year-old woman with lung cancer described by Konigsberg, we need to look at the individual needs of patients and recognize each person's ability to make decisions for his or her body.

    Marcy Grim, MUNSTER, IND.

    After my father was diagnosed with Stage IIIB esophageal cancer at age 78, he refused the recommended chemotherapy, to the frustration of oncologists, who predicted he'd be dead within a year. In July he will be 80. He drives himself to the gym every morning at 5 and does his own grocery shopping. It is hard for him to swallow certain foods, but he has adapted. A recent PET scan showed no spread of the cancer. His family found it hard to come to terms with his decision, but eventually we understood that if the "cure" is a daily routine of nausea and weakness, with no guarantee of success, what kind of life is that? Whether my father has six months left or six years, I want him to go out on his terms.

    Jackie Altman, ARLINGTON, VA.

    To Screen or Not to Screen

    It was irresponsible of you to publish an article that, in part, almost discourages men from having a PSA test ["The Screening Dilemma," June 13]. Had I not had my PSA tested, my 60%-cancerous prostate would have remained in my body, growing and aggressively attacking me at age 48. While the PSA is not a marker for cancer and is not perfect, it is the tool we currently have for potential early detection, which saves lives. Prostate cancer is not just an old man's disease.

    John Salata, LAS CRUCES, N.M.

    The organization I help run, Zero, the Project to End Prostate Cancer, has saved countless lives by testing more than 110,000 men over the past 10 years. Most of our dollars come from individuals who owe their lives to early detection. Testing saves lives. Put aside the excuses an