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Press Releases

HHC Urges New Yorkers 50 and Older to Get a Life-Saving Colonoscopy

Pre-Cancerous Polyps Found in 22% of Colonoscopies Performed at Public Hospitals

Using Medical Simulator, Doctors are Trained to Perform the Procedure So It's More Comfortable for Patients

Mar 15, 2012

New York, NY

The New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC) today urged all New Yorkers 50 and older to undergo a potentially life-saving colon cancer screening as part of Colon Cancer Awareness Month. Last year, HHC doctors performed almost 22,000 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. 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.
“Colon cancer is preventable, treatable and beatable,” 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 disease.”
“Colon cancer can be a silent killer,” said Dr. Joan Culpepper-Morgan, Chief of Gastroenterology at Harlem Hospital Center, an HHC facility. “Most patients do not have symptoms of pain or bleeding until it is too late. That’s why it’s so important to get screened early, starting at age 50, and at least every 10 years after that, since the risk of developing colorectal cancer increases with age.”
At HHC public hospitals last year, doctors performed 21,961 colonoscopies and removed pre-cancerous polyps – abnormal growths in the colon or rectum – from 4,864 patients, or about 22 percent of the total colonoscopies. That is in line with the national average of 15 percent for women and 25 percent for men.
HHC has seen a steady increase in the number of colonoscopies performed at the public hospitals over the years. In the last five years, HHC doctors have performed more than 105,000 colonoscopies and removed pre-cancerous polyps from more than 22,000 patients.
A study published last month in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the death rate from colorectal cancer was cut by 53 percent in patients who had a colonoscopy and had precancerous polyps removed. 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.
As part of the public hospital system’s ongoing efforts to improve the delivery of healthcare to patients, doctors at HHC’s Institute for Medical Simulation and Advanced Learning (IMSAL) will begin to offer training using a gastrointestinal virtual simulator to learn how to better perform colonoscopies so they are safer and more comfortable for patients. The curriculum will allow physicians to perform a colonoscopy from start to finish on the life-like simulator, including removing polyps and taking biopsies of suspicious growths. The simulator even has a patient pain indicator that will stop the doctor from proceeding with the colonoscopy if the patient is in too much pain. The doctors then apply what they have learned with the simulator when treating patients.
During the month of March, HHC physician experts will be available for interviews with the media to inform New Yorkers about the importance of timely colonoscopies. New Yorkers can call 311 or visit www.nychhc.org/hhc to find a nearby HHC public hospital and to learn more about preventing colon cancer.

Contact : Ian Michaels (HHC) (212) 788-3339

About HHC

The New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC) is a $6.7 billion integrated healthcare delivery system with its own 420,000 member health plan, MetroPlusHealth, and is the largest municipal healthcare organization in the country. HHC serves 1.4 million New Yorkers every year and more than 475,000 are uninsured. HHC provides medical, mental health and substance abuse services through its 11 acute care hospitals, five skilled nursing facilities, six large diagnostic and treatment centers and more than 70 community based clinics. HHC Health and Home Care also provides in-home services for New Yorkers. HHC was the 2008 recipient of the National Quality Forum and The Joint Commission’s John M. Eisenberg Award for Innovation in Patient Safety and Quality. For more information, visit www.nychhc.org/hhc or find us on facebook.com/NYCHealthSystem or twitter.com/NYCHealthSystem.