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March 4, 2015 

HHC Urges New Yorkers 50 and Older to Get a Life-Saving Colorectal Cancer Screening

Helping Brooklyn Narrow the Screening Gap

(Brooklyn, NY)For Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month in March, the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC) urges all Brooklyn residents 50 and older to undergo potentially life-saving colorectal cancer screening. In New York City colorectal cancer is the second deadliest cancer, killing approximately 1,400 people each year according to the New York Citywide Colon Cancer Control Coalition (C5), which includes HHC. Yet 90 percent of colorectal cancers are curable when caught in the early stages. HHC hospitals in Brooklyn performed over 7,500 colonoscopies in 2014.

Men and women over age 50 should have a colonoscopy 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 and community health centers offer affordable colonoscopies and other screening tests to all New Yorkers. To find an HHC facility in your community, visit HHC’s website or call 311.

"Our aim is to make colon cancer screening a routine part of preventive healthcare for all New Yorkers over the age of 50," said HHC President Ram Raju, MD. "Effective early detection of colon cancer is an important public health initiative. HHC will continue to work in our communities and with our partners to achieve this important public health goal.”

People with colon cancer often have no symptoms until the disease has reached advanced stages. However, signs of colon cancer may include:

  • A change in bowel habits, including diarrhea, constipation or a change in consistency of stool
  • Rectal bleeding or blood in stool
  • Persistent abdominal discomfort, such as cramps, gas or pain
  • A feeling that the bowel does not completely empty after a bowel movement
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Unexplained weight loss

During the colonoscopy exam, a doctor looks inside the colon using a thin, bendable, lighted tube that has a small camera on the end. If polyps are found, they can be removed right away. The exam lasts about 30 minutes. Typically at HHC, polyps and other pre-cancerous growths are removed in over 20 percent of colonoscopies performed, when the disease can be prevented or treated effectively. That rate is consistent with the national average. Other screening tests are also available.

“Colon cancer is a silent killer, and while there is greater awareness presently of colon cancer screening in Brooklyn we must continue to get the message out,” said Dr. Francis Steinheber, Director of Gastroenterology at HHC Coney Island Hospital. “By the time people feel the symptoms of colon cancer, treatment can be difficult or ineffective. Early screening can find and remove polyps which are the precursors of cancer or discover cancer at a curable stage. Because of new treatments and better chemotherapy options, more colon cancer patients in the U.S. are living longer and enjoying a better quality of life.

“There are many reasons to get a colonoscopy,” said Dr. Steinheber. “Don’t be scared and don’t put it off.”

Overall HHC performed over 22,000 colonoscopies in 2014, almost twice as many as it did when it began an initiative a decade ago to get more New Yorkers to undergo colon cancer screenings. That initiative, as well as the work of the C5 coalition, has helped 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.

HHC has three hospitals in Brooklyn:

Coney Island Hospital
2601 Ocean Parkway
Brooklyn, NY 11235

Kings County Hospital Center
451 Clarkson Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11203

Woodhull Medical Center
760 Broadway
Brooklyn, NY 11206


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HHC 2014 Stats

  • Staffed Beds: 6,684
  • Clinic Visits: 4,472,960
  • ER Visits: 1,179,436
  • Discharges: 205,791
  • Births: 18,564
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