The New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC) today urged all Manhattan residents 50 and older to undergo a potentially life-saving colon cancer screening as part of Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month in March. Men and women over age 50 should have a colorectal screening at least once every 10 years. Individuals with a family history of colorectal cancer should speak with their healthcare provider about more frequent screenings starting at an earlier age. HHC public hospitals offer colonoscopies and other screening tests at little or no cost. To find an HHC public hospital in your community, visit http://www.nyc.gov/hhc.
In New York City colorectal cancer is the second deadliest cancer, killing approximately 1,400 people each year. Yet 90 percent of colorectal cancers are curable when caught in the early stages, according to the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons.
“If you’re 50 or older, it’s time for a colonoscopy,” said HHC President Alan D. Aviles. “Colon cancer is deadly, but it’s also one of the few cancers for which there is an effective and simple early screening tool. A colonoscopy can find potentially precancerous growths and remove them before they turn into cancer. Our goal is to make this screening test a routine part of healthcare for all New Yorkers over 50.”
HHC performs over 20,000 colonoscopies each year, almost twice as many as it did a decade ago when it began an initiative to get more New Yorkers to undergo colon cancer screenings. Typically, polyps and other pre-cancerous growths are removed in over 20 percent of colonoscopies performed at HHC, a rate consistent with the national average. The findings show the life-saving role of colonoscopies in early detection, when the disease can be prevented or treated effectively.
HHC’s colon cancer screening program has been so successful that HHC was recognized last year by the Citywide Colon Cancer Control Coalition (C5) and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) for overall excellence in colonoscopy and for addressing and helping to close the disparity in colon cancer screening rates that exists in most other parts of the country among blacks, whites, Asians and Hispanics. In New York City, the colonoscopy screening rate is now virtually the same across ethnic groups, though in 2003 whites were screened at a significantly higher rate than other groups.
“Keep in mind symptoms of colon cancer don’t always present themselves, which makes colonoscopies so important. If symptoms do appear, they may include constant abdominal pain, blood in the stool, and a change in bowel habits,” said Joan A. Culpepper-Morgan, MD, FACG, Chief of Gastroenterology at Harlem Hospital Center.
This year, HHC’s new colon cancer awareness campaign uses iconic traffic signs to educate people 50 and older that a colonoscopy should be their next stop. In addition to distributing multi-lingual patient education materials at all HHC facilities, the campaign will also utilize social media to ask the public through a series of posts and quiz questions if they know what to do to keep their “engine” running well and when to check “under the hood.” HHC will also join forces with C5 to create awareness through a website and unified social media campaign.
New Yorkers can call 311 or visit http://www.nyc.gov/hhc to find a nearby HHC public hospital and to learn more about preventing colon cancer. HHC has three hospitals in Manhattan, including:
Bellevue Hospital Center
462 First Avenue
Metropolitan Hospital Center
1901 First Avenue
Harlem Hospital Center
506 Lenox Avenue