Health system urges New Yorkers ages 45 and older to get screened for colon cancer

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NYC Health + Hospitals urges New Yorkers to get life-saving colorectal cancer screening from age 45

Easy, convenient and non-invasive fecal immunochemical (FIT) testing now widely available in addition to traditional colonoscopy.

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in New York, but it can be prevented and treated with early detection.

New York, NY

In recognition of Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, NYC Health + Hospitals today urged all New Yorkers to begin lifesaving screening for colorectal cancer starting at age 45. Many New Yorkers may have delayed cancer screenings due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Routine screenings can prevent colorectal cancer or help find it early, when it’s easier to treat. When colorectal cancer is detected at an early stage, the 5-year relative survival rate is about 90%; however, only 4 out of 10 colorectal cancers are detected at this early stage. There are several types of screenings, including traditional colonoscopy and the fecal immunochemical test, or FIT. While the former is for patients at high risk of contracting the disease, the FIT is ideal for those at low risk. FIT is significantly more convenient than a colonoscopy, which requires special diet, sedation, and recovery. FIT only requires a stool (faeces) sample that can be taken at home. Patients can request a fecal immunochemical test through their primary care provider NYC Health + Hospitals or by calling 1-844-NYC-4NYC to schedule an appointment.

“Too many New Yorkers have postponed colon cancer screenings because of the COVID pandemic. There is no reason to put it off any longer, especially now that we have the easy and convenient FIT tests widely available and can be done at home if your doctor recommends it,” said NYC Health + Hospitals President and CEO Mitchell Katz, MD. “We have made significant progress in addressing colorectal screening disparities between ethnic groups and reducing barriers to care. But we must continue to raise awareness and ensure that all eligible New Yorkers have access to this lifesaving screening, regardless of their immigration status or ability to pay.

“It is imperative that all New Yorkers over the age of 45 be screened for colon cancer, especially our black and brown communities,” said NYC Health + Hospitals Vice President and Head of Population Health Nichola Davis, MD, MS. “According to the American Cancer Society, African Americans are about 20% more likely to get colon cancer and about 40% more likely to die from it than most other groups. This is preventable. If you are 45 years or older, please talk to your provider about getting tested.

Each year in New York, about 1,100 adults die from colorectal cancer (also known as colon cancer) and more than 3,500 are newly diagnosed. Colorectal cancer affects men and women of all racial and ethnic groups. New Yorkers are more likely to get colorectal cancer if they:

  • Are older (the older you get, the higher your risk)
  • Had colorectal cancer or polyps in the past, or if you have a family history of colorectal cancer
  • Having certain hereditary risks, such as familial adenomatous polyposis or Lynch syndrome
  • Have ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease
  • Do not exercise regularly
  • have obesity
  • To drink alcohol
  • Smoke

Routine screenings can prevent colorectal cancer. There are several types of projections. Stool-based tests such as FIT can be done at home by collecting a stool (feces) sample using a test kit and sending the kit to a lab. This test is quick and requires little or no preparation and poses no health risk. The patient’s provider will receive the results from the lab and then follow up with the patient to explain the results. If the result is abnormal, a traditional follow-up colonoscopy may be necessary. More than 23,000 primary care patients at NYC Health + Hospitals underwent FIT last year, an increase of nearly 60% from 2020.

The traditional screening, a colonoscopy, requires a small, long tube with a camera inserted through the colon and rectum. It requires a special diet the day before and medication to empty the colon. Patients are usually sedated for the procedure. A colonoscopy can both find cancer and remove polyps – small growths that can turn into cancer if left untreated. A colonoscopy has a low risk of complications and is usually painless.

Most insurance plans, including Medicaid and Medicare, cover colorectal cancer screenings starting at age 45. Consult with a health care provider about colorectal cancer risk and with the insurer about coverage before the screening test.

New Yorkers who do not have insurance may be eligible to purchase free or low-cost coverage through the New York State Health Market. Additionally, NYC CARE is a health care access program for those who are not eligible for insurance or cannot afford it, call 1-646-NYC-CARE to learn more. The program guarantees free and low-cost services to New Yorkers who are not eligible or cannot afford health insurance, including access to the screenings mentioned above.

New Yorkers can also contact the New York State Cancer Services Programwhich offers colorectal cancer screening to uninsured New Yorkers ages 45 and older.


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