The New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC) urged all New Yorkers 50 and older to undergo a potentially life-saving colon cancer screening as part of Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. HHC is performing almost double the number of colonoscopies today as 10 years ago, when the public hospital system began its initiative to get more New Yorkers to undergo a colon cancer screening. Last year, HHC doctors performed more than 21,000 colonoscopies and removed pre-cancerous polyps in more than 22 percent of the cases at city public hospitals. The findings show the life-saving role of colonoscopies in identifying pre-cancerous polyps and colon cancer early, when the disease can be prevented or treated effectively.
"If you're 50 or older, it's time for a colonoscopy," said HHC President Alan D. Aviles. "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 the age of 50. It is important for all of us to remind our family members, friends and other New Yorkers about the importance of early screening to prevent this deadly disease."
In New York City, colorectal cancer is the second deadliest cancer, killing approximately 1,400 New Yorkers 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.
"Many times there are no signs or symptoms of potentially pre-cancerous colon polyps or early colon cancers. This is why getting screened before you have signs or symptoms is so important," said Dr. Susan Williams, Chief of Gastroenterology at Metropolitan Hospital Center.
At HHC public hospitals last year, doctors performed 21,443 colonoscopies, compared to 11,829 colonoscopies in 2003. Last year doctors removed pre-cancerous polyps - abnormal growths in the colon or rectum – from 4,779 patients, or more than 22 percent of the total colonoscopies. That is in line with the national average of 15 percent for women and 25 percent for men.
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 accelerated screening starting at age 45 or earlier. HHC is committed to colon cancer prevention and early detection and colonoscopies are available at little or no cost year round at all 11 public hospitals.
This year, HHC is collaborating with the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and members of the Citywide Colon Cancer Control Coalition to create awareness through a unified social media campaign. Throughout March, each agency will post a series of important messages, tips and stats about colonoscopy on Twitter and Facebook to help educate thousands of "fans" and "followers" about the benefits of colon cancer prevention, screening and early detection.
New Yorkers can call 311 or visit www.nyc.gov/hhc to find a nearby HHC public hospital and to learn more about preventing colon cancer.