|Wesley Autrey with his two daughters, Shuqui and Syshe
Wesley Autrey is joining the New York City public hospital system this March as spokesperson for HHC's colon cancer awareness campaign to urge New Yorkers over 50 to get a colonoscopy.
Autrey was hailed as a hero when he rescued a fellow New Yorker who had fallen in front of an approaching subway train early last year. He's now following up that courageous action by reaching out to people with a potentially life-saving message.
"I jumped into the subway tracks to save one life but now I'm jumping into this campaign to help save even more lives," said Autrey. "Like me, New Yorkers over the age of 50 who could be at risk of colon cancer can be a hero to their families just by getting a colonoscopy and staying healthy. It's just what you do!"
HHC has sharply increased the number of screening colonoscopies provided, almost tripling the number from 2003 to 2007, from 4,585 to 12,511. Nearly 21,000 colonoscopies overall were given in 2007 – a 76% increase compared to 2003. The results are notable – HHC has removed pre-cancerous polyps from almost 14,000 patients since 2003.
"Although we’ve made impressive gains in closing the gap in racial and ethnic disparities by providing over 90,000 colonoscopies over the last five years - about 1400 New Yorkers still die from colon cancer each year," said HHC President Alan D. Aviles. "We want to remind New Yorkers that colon cancer can be prevented. A colonoscopy is the only cancer screening method that can actually remove precancerous growths before they develop into cancer."
According to the New York City Department of Health only half of New Yorkers age 50 and older have been screened, leaving nearly a million more at greater risk for undetected colon cancer.
The 52 year-old Autrey got his first colonoscopy last year at Harlem Hospital, one of the 11 HHC facilities that provide low and no-cost colonoscopies. HHC is also partnering with local hospitals in Staten Island to ensure borough residents have access to life-saving colonoscopies. The screenings are available to all New Yorkers regardless of immigration status or ability to pay. New Yorkers can dial 311 or visit nyc.gov/hhc to contact a public hospital for an appointment.