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MaineHealth recognized for high colorectal cancer screening rates

​Did you know Maine has the highest CRC screening rates in the country?

Celebrating past success and with a gaze fixed on the future, our Chief Cancer Control Officer Rich Wender, MD, visited the MaineHealth system this month to recognize their work in colorectal cancer control. 

Dr. Wender presented MaineHealth with an award recognizing the health system’s collaboration and achievement in the 80% by 2018 campaign. The system is at a 77.5% colorectal cancer screening rates with three of their hospitals exceeding 80%. 

Also, he spent the day with MaineHealth leadership discussing the Society’s Cancer Control Blueprint and presenting on the 80% in Every Community. 

The state of Maine has the highest screening rates in the country, at 75.9%, according to the most recent data available from the Centers for Disease Control. These rates are the percentage of adults aged 50 to 75 who reported being up-to-date with their screening in 2016.

TOP PHOTO: MaineHealth leadership accepting the award included, left to right, Naomi Anderson Schucker, MPH, senior director, Prevention & Wellness, Center for Health Improvement; Marin Johnson, program manager, Center for Health Improvement; Gina Quinn-Skillings, MD, senior medical director; Scot Remick, MD, chief, Oncology, MaineHealth Cancer Care Network; Joan Boomsma, MD, chief medical officer; Dr. Wender; Nicole Heanssler, health systems manager, Hospitals; Elisa Madore, program manager, Mission Delivery; Dora Anne Mills, MD, MPH; chief health improvement officer; and Evan Barnathan, MD, resident, Preventative Medicine, and clinical advisor for the CRC Dashboard Action Team.

Society staff also in attendance, but, not pictured, were Lynn Basilio, MS, senior manager, State & Primary Care Systems; Kerri Medeiros, MPA, senior manager, Hospital Systems; and Magda Alden, MSW, LCSW, ACS patient navigator, Maine Medical Center.

  • Are you being safe while browsing the web?

    Here are some cyber security best practices 

    Read on for some good rules to follow and solid habits to develop to ensure that you surf online more safely and securely.

    • Avoid public or free Wi-Fi. Attackers often use wireless "sniffers" to steal users' information as it is sent over unprotected networks. The best way to protect yourself from this is to avoid using these networks altogether. A more secure alternative may be using your smartphone to set up a personal hotspot, using a strong password.
    • Ensure the sites you use to access personal and financial information use HTTPS protocols. Check for an "https:" or a padlock icon in your browser's URL bar to verify that the communication between your computer or mobile device is secure before entering any personal or financial information (on banking or travel sites, for example). The "s" in "https" stands for secure, meaning that the website employs SSL encryption for data in transit.
    • Regularly monitor your bank statements. Keep a watchful eye on your credit card and banking statements, so you can react quickly if one of your accounts is compromised.
    • Read those privacy policies and terms of service. Websites' privacy policies and user agreements should provide details on how your information is being collected, used, and protected, as well as how that site tracks your online activity. For example, will the company share your data with third parties? What happens to your data if you delete your account? You should avoid sharing information or creating accounts on websites that do not provide this information in their policies.
    • Disable passwords stored in your browser. Nearly all browsers offer to remember your passwords for websites to make it easier to log in again in the future. However, enabling this feature stores your passwords in one location on your computer, which makes it easier for an attacker to discover a list of your passwords if your system is compromised. If you have saved passwords in your browser, you are encouraged to disable that feature and clear any stored passwords using these instructions for each major browser. Secure password managers like LastPass and Dashlane are a more secure option for managing your strong online passwords. At home, your internet service provider may give you access to Norton or McAfee suites, which also feature secure password managers.
    • Beware of pop-ups or pages that prompt you to click a link and run software. Malicious websites can create prompts that look like messages from your browser or computer. These message pop-ups try to short-circuit your logic and make you panic, like with huge WARNING signs or statements like YOUR COMPUTER HAS A VIRUS. If you see a pop-up you think is risky, go with your gut. Immediately close out of the browser (Ctrl + W keys) without clicking on any OK buttons or links. Your IT department manages the programs necessary to protect your work computer, so no other software or scans are needed.
    • Watch for shortened URLs and numbers, hyphens, or special characters in a URL. As you learned in the Safer Web Browsing course, remember that hackers use legitimate-looking topics and manipulate URLs to trick you into clicking. Be wary of shortened URLs (services like TinyURL and Bitly), all URLs posted in Facebook and other social media sites, as well as those sent via email. Before you click, hover over and scrutinize each URL to make sure you will be taken to a legitimate website. You can even use a search engine to identify the actual URL for this company or website.

    These healthy habits can help you use online resources more safely and securely. Safer surfing helps to protect the Society – including its staff, investors, data, and mission – against cyberattacks and other online threats. 

  • Senate leaders introduce Tobacco 21 bill

    Both McConnell and Kaine represent tobacco-producing states

    On May 20, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) introduced legislation that would raise the federal age of sale for tobacco products from 18 to 21. The bipartisan Tobacco-Free Youth Act comes amid a public health crisis that has resulted in a 78% spike in youth use of e-cigarettes in recent years.

    Raising the age of sale for tobacco products from 18 to 21 is one of several important public policy changes Congress is considering in response to this crisis that the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) supports. In recent months several lawmakers have brought forward similar bipartisan proposals that would also raise the federal age of sale of tobacco products to 21, as well as prohibit most flavored tobacco products, restrict advertising of tobacco products like e-cigarettes, and grant the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the authority to collect user fees from all tobacco product manufacturers, including e-cigarette manufacturers.

    The following is a statement from Lisa Lacasse, president of ACS CAN:

    "Today's bipartisan action by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Tim Kaine is another welcome indication that Congress is taking the alarming crisis of increased youth tobacco use seriously and is committed to taking action. Raising the federal age of sale for tobacco products from 18 to 21 is one of several important federal policy changes necessary to ensure a new generation of Americans do not become addicted to the deadly products sold by the tobacco industry and face increased risk for tobacco-related cancers.

    "As this bill advances through the legislative process, it will be crucial that Leader McConnell and Sen. Kaine keep it free of provisions or carveouts that would benefit the tobacco industry. Any federal legislation that advances cannot preempt state or local governments from enacting and enforcing their own strong tobacco control laws, must cover all tobacco products currently on the market or that may be introduced to the market, and must not exempt anyone under the age of 21 from compliance.

    "We look forward to working with Majority Leader McConnell, Sen. Kaine and other lawmakers to pass strong tobacco control policies, including Tobacco 21 legislation. If passed, ACS CAN will work with states to make sure legislation raising the age of sale moves forward across the country without any additional policy changes that might negatively impact youth use. Together we can reverse this devastating youth tobacco use trend, protect our children from the dangers of tobacco and a lifelong nicotine addiction, and improve our nation's health."

    About ACS CAN
    The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) is making cancer a top priority for public officials and candidates at the federal, state and local levels. ACS CAN empowers advocates across the country to make their voices heard and influence evidence-based public policy change as well as legislative and regulatory solutions that will reduce the cancer burden. As the American Cancer Society's nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate, ACS CAN is critical to the fight for a world without cancer. For more information, visit

  • HHS hears cancer patients' concerns about timely access to drug therapies in Medicare Part D

    Final rule lessens potential impact

    On May 16, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued its final rule for Medicare Part D which does not include the full range of proposed changes to drugs in the ‘six protected classes’ of cancer, epilepsy, HIV/AIDS, mental illness, and organ transplants. HHS had proposed allowing plans to use additional utilization management, like prior authorization and step therapy, for all drugs in these classes, however the final rule would not interfere with already established medication regiments for cancer patients.

    In addition, the proposal that would have allowed insurers to exclude new therapies that exceeded a specific price was also omitted.

    A statement from Lisa Lacasse, president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network follows:

    “Current cancer patients will be relieved to hear their access to innovative new drug therapies will not be in question under this finalized rule. Cancer care often requires specialized treatment targeted at a patient’s specific tumor and these treatments are rarely interchangeable.

    “Additionally, coverage of new drugs will not be excluded based on a pre-determined price alone. Concern remains, however, over how this may affect patients starting new therapies.

    “Cancer care is a race against time. We are glad HHS and Secretary Azar listened to the countless patients who voiced their serious concern over the proposed rule. We will closely monitor implementation of this rule working to make sure all cancer patients have timely access to the therapies best suited to treat their disease.”

    Read ACS CAN's advocacy efforts around this issue.

  • Dr. Len addresses our new goal to reduce cancer deaths

    ​Are we, as a nation, up to the challenge?

    Check out the latest entry in  Dr. Len's Cancer BlogIn it, J. Leonard Lichtenfeld, MD, MACP, our interim chief medical and scientific officer, discusses our recently announced goal to reduce cancer deaths 40% by 2035.

    Achieving that would mean 1.3 million fewer premature deaths from cancer between 2020 and 2035. Remarkably, it would mean 122,500 fewer deaths from cancer in 2035 alone.  

    Can we achieve it? Read the blog to find out.

    Here are six behavioral changes many Americans will have to make if we are to be successful: 

    1. Quit smoking

    2. Lose weight

    3. Eat more fruits and vegetables

    4. Reduce consumption of red and processed meats

    5. Drink less alcohol

    6. Get more exercise 

    Dr. Len notes that what you don’t see on this list are some of the things that could take us beyond that 40% goal. Things like immunotherapy, which is just beginning to have an impact on cancer death rates, lung cancer screening, advances in the early detection of cancer, and HPV vaccination.

  • Federal judge rules FDA acted illegally in delaying required review of e-cigarettes, cigars

    Judge says FDA’s delay has played a role in the skyrocketing youth use of e-cigarettes

    Below is the statement of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, and Truth Initiative:

    In a major victory for America’s kids and public health, a federal judge ruled May 15 that, in August 2017, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) acted illegally by allowing e-cigarettes to remain on the market until 2022 before applying for FDA authorization and by permitting products to remain on the market indefinitely during review.

    In March 2018, our public health and medical organizations, and several individual pediatricians, filed suit in federal court challenging this FDA decision. Our lawsuit argued the FDA’s decision was unlawful, put kids at risk and harmed public health. The FDA’s delay allowed e-cigarettes – including candy, fruit, mint and menthol-flavored products that clearly appeal to kids – to stay on the market for years without a review of their public health impact. The FDA also delayed the deadline for cigar manufacturers to file such applications until 2021.

    On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Paul W. Grimm of the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland ruled in our favor, finding that the FDA had exceeded its legal authority and the FDA’s delay had played a role in the skyrocketing youth use of e-cigarettes. Judge Grimm ruled that the FDA’s delay gave “manufacturers responsible for the public harm a holiday from meeting the obligations of the law.”

    “Instead of addressing public health concerns associated with tobacco use by minors and others, the August 2017 Guidance [which delayed the product review requirement] exacerbates the situation by stating, in essence, that manufacturers can continue to advertise and sell products that are addictive and that target a youth market … at a time when minors’ use of tobacco products like e-cigarettes is at an epidemic level and rising,” Judge Grimm wrote.

    “Arguably, the five-year compliance safe-harbor has allowed the manufacturers enough time to attract new, young users and get them addicted to nicotine before any of their products, labels, or flavors are pulled from the market, at which time the youth are likely to switch to one of the other thousands of tobacco products that are approved – results entirely contrary to the express purpose of the Tobacco Control Act,” Judge Grimm continued.

    Judge Grimm has rightly recognized that the FDA’s years-long delay in reviewing e-cigarettes and cigars is causing great harm to kids and public health and cannot be allowed to stand. Judge Grimm gave the plaintiffs 14 days to tell him what remedial action they want him to order and the FDA 14 days to respond. It is now the FDA’s responsibility to take immediate action to protect our kids and require manufacturers to apply to the FDA if they want to keep their products on the market, including products like Juul that have fueled the youth e-cigarette epidemic.

    Judge Grimm noted that manufacturers have had plenty of time to meet this requirement, writing that “manufacturers long have been on notice that they will have to file premarket approval applications, substantial equivalence reports, and exemption requests, and if they have chosen to delay their preparations to do so, then any hardship occasioned by their now having to comply is of their own making.”

    The lawsuit was filed on March 27, 2018, by the American Academy of Pediatrics and its Maryland chapter, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Truth Initiative and five individual pediatricians.

    The health groups are being represented by the legal staff of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, lawyers at Democracy Forward Foundation and the law firm of Brown, Goldstein & Levy.

  • ACS CAN ads call on HHS secretary to stop proposed changes to Medicare Part D

    Cancer survivors express concern at dangerous consequences of proposed changes to Medicare Part D drug benefit

    The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) launched an ad campaign this week highlighting cancer patients and survivors’ deep concerns over the dangerous impact that proposed changes to Medicare Part D’s six protected classes could have on their access to critical drug therapies. 

    The ads will run on television and social media and feature actual cancer survivors and Medicare beneficiaries urging the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar to protect cancer patients’ lives by halting the proposed changes. The campaign will air during programs including “Meet the Press,” “Fox & Friends,” “CNN Newsroom,” and “State of the Union,” in addition to running on Twitter.  

    The ads feature childhood cancer survivor Mariah Forster Olson of La Crosse, WI, and breast and thyroid cancer survivor Jennifer Wall of Buckland, MA, both of whom rely on medications included in Medicare Part D’s six protected classes. Forster Olson and Wall share their concerns about the impact of these proposed changes on their ability to access and afford their prescriptions. Both Forster Olson and Wall received breakthrough therapies during their initial cancer treatments and fear that these proposed changes to the six protected classes, if finalized by the Administration, could significantly delay access to the types of innovative treatments that saved their lives. 

    “Protecting access to lifesaving treatments is paramount to ensure both current and future cancer patients and survivors receive the most effective and medically appropriate therapies,” said Lisa Lacasse, president of ACS CAN. “If finalized, these proposed changes could undermine health provider recommendations and create significant and potentially life-threatening delays in access to cutting-edge therapies that play a crucial role in cancer care.”

    The six protected classes policy was established more than a decade ago to ensure Medicare beneficiaries were able to have access to innovative therapies. Medicare Part D plan sponsors are currently required to cover virtually all drug therapies in the designated six protected classes. In November 2018, HHS released a proposal to alter rules around Medicare Part D’s six protected classes and allow plan sponsors to use utilization management tools, including step therapy and prior authorization, to limit access to protected class drug therapies. ACS CAN recently released a nationwide survey of cancer patients, caregivers and doctors that details the negative effects insurance utilization management policies in private insurance have had on patient care.

    “Imposing utilization management tools on Medicare Part D beneficiaries could delay a patient’s access to the most clinically appropriate drug therapies, potentially interrupting their recommended course of treatment and ability to manage their disease,” Lisa said. “In the face of a new diagnosis or medical setback, cancer patients don’t have any time to waste. We strongly urge Secretary Azar to protect cancer patients’ lives and stop the proposed changes to Medicare Part D’s six protected classes.” 

    ACS CAN led nearly 60 patient and provider organizations in a print and digital ad campaign earlier this year to demonstrate the widespread opposition to policy changes that pose significant potential risk to patients with serious medical conditions, including cancer.

    The new ad campaign is available here.

  • House votes to stop tax subsidies for inadequate health plans

    ​ACS CAN urges Senate to quickly do the same

    On May 9, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would halt Department of Health and Human Services and Department of the Treasury guidance enabling individuals to use federal tax subsidies to purchase health insurance that does not meet coverage standards under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

    A statement from Lisa Lacasse, president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) follows:

    “Limiting the appeal of inadequate health plans is critical to maintaining protections for people with serious health conditions like cancer. These non-compliant plans are exempt from having to cover people’s pre-existing conditions, do not have to cover essential health benefits like prescription drugs, and can set arbitrary limits on what little coverage they do provide.

    “Allowing taxpayer subsidies to be used for these health plans feeds the misconception that they provide meaningful coverage, when in reality it could result in many more Americans being underinsured and facing potential financial devastation should they get sick. Proliferation of these plans will also lead to a split health insurance market, pricing those who want and need access to comprehensive coverage out of the market by making that coverage more and more expensive.

    “On behalf of the more than 1.7 million Americans who will be diagnosed with cancer this year and the more than 15 million American cancer survivors who need access to meaningful health coverage, we commend the House for passing this bill and urge the Senate to quickly to do the same.”

  • ACS CAN and other health groups urge FDA to investigate Juul for making unauthorized smoking cessation claims

    Six leading public health and medical organizations yesterday called on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to investigate and take enforcement action against Juul for making unauthorized claims that the company’s e-cigarettes help users stop smoking.

    In a letter to the FDA, the health groups assert that Juul’s current marketing campaign, which includes newspaper, television and radio ads, and website testimonials, makes unauthorized and unproven smoking cessation claims by urging smokers to “make the switch” from cigarettes to Juul. One highlighted newspaper ad repeats the phrase “Quit. Start Smoking Again” 30 times and concludes with the word Switch and then the statement, “The average smokers tries to quit 30 times. Make the switch.”

    “The ad clearly communicates the message that by switching to Juul, the smoker can achieve what he/she has previously been unable to achieve: quitting smoking. It is, unmistakably, a smoking cessation claim for Juul,” the health groups’ letter states.

    View examples of Juul marketing involving smoking cessation claims.

    The letter was sent by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, and Truth Initiative.

    Federal law prohibits a manufacturer from making a therapeutic claim unless the manufacturer applies to the FDA and demonstrates the product is safe and effective. This is a longstanding law that has effectively protected the public from fraudulent claims. A 2010 federal court ruling and a 2017 FDA rule established that this requirement applies to tobacco products marketed with therapeutic claims, including cessation claims. Like all other consumers, smokers deserve to know what products have been shown to be safe and effective at helping them quit. If Juul, or any other manufacturer, wants to make a therapeutic claim, they must follow the law. 

    “Juul, a product that FDA has found to be largely responsible for the current epidemic of youth usage of highly addictive e-cigarettes, is being advertised and marketed on a massive scale as a smoking cessation product, without the required review and approval by FDA,” the letter states. “Juul’s campaign not only creates consumer confusion among smokers; it also may cause non-smokers, particularly youth who already regard Juul as highly appealing, to mistakenly believe the product is FDA-approved as ‘safe,’ thus leading to greater initiation and continuation of its use.

    “We urge FDA to launch a full-scale investigation of all aspects of Juul’s advertising and marketing to determine the scope of its statutory violations and to take strong enforcement action to sanction the company and bring these violations to an end.”

    The health groups’ letter cites numerous examples of Juul marketing with cessation claims:In addition to the print ad cited above, other print ads feature testimonials from longtime smokers who switched to Juul, with the tagline “Make the switch.” “In each of these ads, switching to Juul is presented as equivalent to smoking cessation,” the letter states.Juul’s TV ads also feature testimonials from smokers about how they switched to Juul and stopped smoking cigarettes. In one ad, a man named Patrick states, “I gave the Juul a real chance and found out I liked it. Found out it really works. The switch was easy. It was a no-brainer really. But now that I look at people who smoke, I’m like, ‘Dude really? You’re still doing that? You know there’s an alternative to that right? You don’t have to do that.’”

    Juul’s website also features testimonials from users recommending the product as a means to stop smoking by replacing cigarettes with Juul. A woman named Laura states, “Just replace the cigarette with the Juul! It really helps to keep some physical habits the first week or two. Just focus on using the Juul instead of a cigarette.”CNBC recently reported that Juul had established a 17-person team to market its e-cigarettes to insurers and to companies that want to help their employees stop smoking. The leader of this Juul effort told CNBC that “Juul is planning to design a program to help smokers switch from combustible cigarettes to e-cigarettes.”

    The health groups assert that a disclaimer on Juul’s website, which states that “Juul is a switching product” and “not intended to be used as cessation products,” is insufficient to overcome the cessation claims in Juul’s ads. “Calling Juul a ‘switching product’ in a website disclaimer (a disclaimer that does not appear in Juul ads) does nothing to dispel the health-related message inherent in Juul’s repeated equation of ‘switching’ with quitting smoking,” the letter states.

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