Subway Hero Promotes Colonoscopies
|Wesley Autrey with his two daughters, Shuqui and Syshe
It’s just what you do.
That’s been Wesley Autrey’s motto ever since the “Subway Hero” jumped onto the train tracks on January 2nd to rescue a film student who fell off a subway platform during a seizure. Autrey will now be able to help save even more lives as he joins the HHC Colon Cancer Awareness campaign to encourage New Yorkers over 50 to get a colonoscopy.
Autrey has become HHC’s spokesman during Colon Cancer Awareness Month this March and will be getting a colonoscopy himself later in the month at Harlem Hospital. HHC is partnering with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to reach out to New Yorkers with the colon cancer prevention message. The campaign will include a recorded message from Autrey on local radio stations and posters featuring the 51-year-old construction worker and his two young daughters – you guessed it – on subway platforms and inside trains.
“If you are 50 years or older, it’s time for a colonoscopy,” said Autrey. “The good news is a colonoscopy can detect colon cancer at the early stages and can even prevent it. Be a hero for yourself and your family. Get checked. It’s just what you do.”
Colon cancer begins as one or more tiny growths, called polyps, which may turn into cancer if not removed. A colonoscopy is the only exam where a doctor can remove the growths before they become cancerous. Growths can usually be removed on the spot and without pain.
Autrey falls into two high risk categories. Colon cancer occurs most often in people 50 years of age and older, and the risk increases with age. He’s also African American, an ethnic group that remains at highest risk from death due to colon cancer. The disease is among the top three causes of cancer-related death for men and women in Central Harlem.
“Getting a colonoscopy is key to early cancer detection, especially if a patient has a family history,” said Dr. Alfred Ashford, Director of Medicine at Harlem Hospital Center and a nationally renowned cancer specialist. “The procedure can remove pre-cancerous polyps or reveal an early diagnosis, so a patient can start receiving treatment before late-stage cancer develops.”
Over the past four years HHC facilities have performed nearly 71,000 colonoscopies, increasing the numbers each year. During that time, HHC increased its colon cancer screenings by 86 percent from less than 12,000 in 2003 to almost 22,000 in 2006, preventing hundreds of additional cases of cancer and possible deaths from the disease.
To find out where to get a cancer screening at little or no cost, visit HHC’s web site at nyc.gov/hhc.