NYC Health + Hospitals/Harlem CEO Georges H. Leconte, MPA, FAB, RRT allowed cameras to follow him as he prepped and underwent a routine colonoscopy to help encourage more New Yorkers ages 45 to 75 to get screened for preventable cancer and to de-stigmatize the potentially life-saving procedure. Colorectal cancer, also known as colon cancer, occurs in the colon or rectum and is the second-leading cause of cancer death in New York City. African Americans are about 20 percent more likely to get colon cancer and about 40 percent more likely to die from it than most other groups, according to the American Cancer Society. The NYC Health + Hospitals system offers colonoscopies and the at-home fecal immunochemical (FIT) test, which is easy and less invasive, to help prevent colon cancer or find it early when it is more treatable. To make an appointment, call 1-1-844 NYC-4NYC. View Mr. Leconte’s video here and learn more here about the FIT test from NYC Health + Hospitals Vice President and Chief Population Health Officer Dr. Nichola Davis.
“I agreed to document my colonoscopy experience on video to dispel some common myths and fears about colonoscopy,” said Mr. Leconte. “Too many people in our community think it’s hard to prep for the procedure or that it’s painful or embarrassing. I hope my experience encourages more New Yorkers, especially more Black men, to get screened. We owe it to ourselves and our loved ones.”
“It’s imperative that all New Yorkers ages 45 to 75 get screened for colon cancer, particularly our Black and brown communities who are more likely to get colon cancer and are more likely to die from it,” said NYC Health + Hospitals Vice President and Chief Population Health Officer Nichola Davis, MD, MS. “I’m encouraging many of my patients to consider the FIT test as an easy, less evasive alternative and a way to do more routine screenings. The test is easy and can be done at home every year.”
Regular screenings can find colon cancer early, when it is easier to treat. When colon cancer is detected at an early stage, the 5-year relative survival rate is about 90 percent; however, only 4 out of 10 colon cancers are found this early. That is why it is so important to get screened!
Often, colon cancer does not show signs or symptoms until it grows or spreads, which is why it is important to screen for it regularly. Symptoms of colon cancer can include blood in the stool or rectum, sudden weight loss, and diarrhea or constipation that doesn’t go away. New Yorkers should talk to their doctor if they experience any of these symptoms.
If you get a FIT test at NYC Health + Hospitals, your provider will send you home with a test kit (pictured above). You will use a brush to obtain a small amount of stool (poop), then return the test kit by mail or to the lab for testing. The FIT test should be done once a year, as long as blood is not detected in your stool. If blood is detected, you may need a follow-up colonoscopy. More than 42,000 NYC Health + Hospitals patients completed a FIT test last year, a nearly 86 percent increase from 2021.
A colonoscopy is a procedure where a doctor inserts a flexible tube with a camera on the end (colonoscope) into your rectum to check for signs of cancer. The doctor can find and remove most small growths and some cancers. Colonoscopies have a low risk for complication and are usually painless as you are asleep during the procedure. Your NYC Health + Hospitals provider will give you instructions on how to prepare for your colonoscopy.
New Yorkers are more likely to get colorectal cancer if they:
Are older (the older you get, the higher your risk)
- Have a personal history of colon cancer or polyps
- Have a family history of colon cancer
- Have certain inherited risks, such as familial adenomatous polyposis or Lynch syndrome
- Have inflammatory bowel disease, like ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease
- Do not exercise regularly
- Have obesity
- Drink alcohol
To lower your risk of colon cancer:
Maintain a healthy weight
- Eat fewer processed meats, such as hot dogs and deli meats
- If you smoke, make a plan to quit
- Exercise regularly
- Reduce the amount and how often you drink alcohol
Most insurance plans, including Medicaid and Medicare, cover colon cancer screenings starting at age 45. Consult with your NYC Health + Hospitals health care provider about your colon cancer risk and with your insurer about your coverage before your screening test. New Yorkers who do not qualify for or cannot afford health insurance may be eligible for NYC Health + Hospitals’ health care access program NYC Care. For more information call 1-646-NYC-CARE (1-646-692-2273).
Not a NYC Health + Hospitals patient? Call 1-844-NYC-NYC (1-844-692-4692) or visit our website.