It’s really easy to joke about colonoscopies. Like the one about Johnnie Cochran’s first checkup, when, through clenched teeth, he reminded the doc that if the camera don’t fit, he must acquit. Or the guy who asked his doctor to provide a note for his wife making clear that his head was not, in fact, up there. Or… okay, okay, I’ll stop.

So the topic of rectal health may spur on some silly jokes. But it’s still a serious matter. Dead serious.

After all, colon cancer – a preventable and treatable disease – remains the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths, killing approximately 1,400 New Yorkers every year, according to the New York City Department of Health.

And Russian-Americans are lagging far behind other New Yorkers when it comes to colon cancer screening, recent findings show. So the Department of Health, the Health and Hospitals Corporation, Russian-American community leaders announced a new partnership this morning to raise awareness within the Russian-speaking community.

Get the facts – including statistics and an understanding of why regular colon cancer screenings are important – from the press release below.

City redoubles efforts to close the gap among Russian-speaking community

April 5, 2012 – The New York City Health Department and the Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC) announced today that in just under a decade New York City’s colonoscopy rate has increased by 62%, signaling a major step forward in the fight against one of the most common – and deadliest – cancers. The city’s average colonoscopy rate is now 67%, up from 42% in 2003 when New York City first began tracking colonoscopy rates. During this time, a citywide push to increase screening rates has also eliminated racial disparities. In 2010, colonoscopy rates in the Asian community were on par with African-Americans, whites and Hispanics for the first time. However, the colonoscopy rate among Russian-speaking New Yorkers trails behind the citywide rate and the City will work with community partners to better understand the reason for the lag and find ways to increase colon cancer screenings. The announcement was made at the Coney Island Hospital in conjunction with the City’s partnership with the Citywide Colon Cancer Control Coalition.

“Colonoscopy screening saves lives,” said New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley.

“Two-thirds of New Yorkers are getting screening, but one third is not. If you’re 50 or older or belong to a higher risk group, call 311 to find a screening location, and encourage friends and loved ones to do the same.”

“Colon cancer is preventable, treatable and beatable,” said HHC President Alan D. Aviles. “Since 2003, HHC has aggressively urged New Yorkers who are over 50 to get a colonoscopy and has increased the number of colonoscopies provided to New Yorkers at HHC facilities by almost 400 percent. In the process, our public hospitals are playing a vital role in eliminating racial disparities in colon cancer screening and saving lives.”

“Colonoscopy screening is largely unheard of in the Russian-speaking community,” said Assemblyman Alec Brook-Krasny. “Until recently, colon and rectal cancer prevention programs did not exist in Russia. Russian-Americans are simply unaware of this beneficial procedure. The Russian-speaking population in New York needs to be informed of colonoscopy screening and the ability of preventing colon and rectal cancers. With the help of the Department of Health and the local hospitals, we can educate the Russian-speaking community in preventative screenings.”

“Each year, hundreds of New Yorkers die of colon cancer, the second leading cause of cancer-related death,” said Councilman and Finance Chair Domenic M. Recchia, Jr. “This does not have to be the case given the accessibility to colon screenings provided by public hospitals throughout our city. I’d like to thank the New York City Health Department and Health, Hospitals Corporation for making it possible that more New Yorkers have access to the best preventive measures that will ensure a long and healthy life.”

Colorectal cancer is the second deadliest cancer, killing approximately 1,400 New Yorkers each year. But colonoscopy screening saves lives. Colonoscopies detect precancerous polyps—abnormal growths in the colon or rectum— which can then be removed before they turn life-threatening. This test also detects cancer early, and when found at an early stage, colon cancer is 90% curable. People should begin screening at the age of 50, or younger than that for those who are at high risk. In the last five years alone, HHC doctors have performed more than 105,000 colonoscopies and removed pre-cancerous polyps from more than 22,000 patients. 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, including Coney Island Hospital.

Over the past decade the disparity in colonoscopy rates between whites, Asians, African-Americans, and Hispanics has vanished. In 2003, Asians had a colonoscopy rate of 24%; African-Americans were at 35%; and Hispanics were at 38%, compared with whites at 48%. By 2010 these inequalities were eliminated, and the rates for all of these groups are now statistically the same as the rate for whites. Progress has been slower among smaller ethnic subgroups in New York City, such as the Russian-speaking community, whose colonoscopy rate of 56% is ten percentage points below the citywide average, according to the Health Department’s Community Health Survey.

To address this inequality, the Health Department and Health and Hospitals Corporation have joined to get the word out to the Russian community. The Health Department is also partnering with New York University School of Medicine to work with community groups and key leaders in the City’s Russian-speaking community to better understand their low colonoscopy screening rates. The initiative aims to determine why some people in the Russian-speaking community are getting screened, and others are not. The information gathered will help shape strategies to address barriers to screening with the goal of increasing screening rates for this community and to continue the progress seen citywide.

To reduce your risk of colon cancer:

  • Don’t smoke
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Exercise regularly
  • Eat a diet rich in fiber, fruits and vegetables
  • Get Checked. Get a colonoscopy

For more information on where to go for colon cancer screening please call 311 or search for “Colonoscopy” on NYC.gov.

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  • barkingspider07

    I found the jokes at the beginning of this article very funny (seriously – esp the Johnny Cochran joke!), but this is a very serious issue.  I am 52 years old and had my first colonoscopy last October.  They found 2 polyps and removed them.  Really friends, do this.  It is no joke.  I’m glad that I had it done, because my grandfather had colon cancer.  One of my neighbors had it and went through hell.  He had part of his colon removed and they hooked him up to a colostomy bag.  He had that removed later on, then didn’t live too long.  The cancer spread through his body and to his brain.  I don’t want to end up like this, AND NEITHER DO YOU!!  Trust me, you won’t feel a thing.  Tell the anesthesiologist that you are a combative patient and need to be put into a deep sleep (my line – you’re welcome to use it!). I woke up in recovery, feeling fine, albeit gassy (forgive me).  It is a test that you will never regret.  The only way you will fail, is if you do not have it done.

    • BrooklynBus

      Don’t listen that you need to start getting screened at age 50.  Start at age 40.   I had colon cancer at 43. My only symptoms were severe cramps three times, then blood in the stool, a lot of it. I must have been at high risk and didn’t know it.  Years later I found out that one of my cousins also had it a few years earlier. That was 20 years ago and we are now both fine.  Barkingspider is correct. You won’t feel a thing. The worst part is the preparation, not the procedure.

      But like anything else, there are risks involved. Make sure you go to someone you can trust, preferably a recommendation from a friend. I heard of one horror story that I won’t repeat. But those are exrtremely rare. I will repeat, you won’t regret getting this test, but you might regret not getting it.  Be safe, not sorry.

      Also, there are other alternatives to a traditional colonsocopy, but they are not as effective.

      • barkingspider07

        Wow Bus, you were so young to have cancer.  I know that the disease does not discriminate because of age, but it is always a horror to me when someone so young develops such a horrible disease.  Thank goodness you (and your cousin) are doing well.  I hope that continues for a very long time.  

        Wow – I totally blocked out the prep.  Everyone, it is not the worst thing in the world, you just have to drink like a half gallon of very salty liquid.  In the beginning, I kept gagging, then I just held my nose, and pretended like it was a shot of Patrone.  The doctors and nurses in the hospital were toasting with me.  They made it bearable.  I did live through it, and so will you.

        • BrooklynBus

          Thank you.

          There is something else you can take instead, only a pint, but my doctor doesn’t believe in that.

          Actually you have to drink three liters of the liquid in 4 to 6 hours.  Very Salty is only one of the flavors available. There is also cherry, pineapple, lemon, orange and maybe more.  I’ve tried them all and finally settled on the cherry which for me is the least objectionable. I tried the lemon flavor and since then I come to hate lemonade because of it which I used to like. 

          I’ve lost track of how many I’ve had already, at least 2 dozen. It’s actually no worse than a trip to the dentist.

          • bagels

            I had my first a few months ago and the prep consisted of 2 dulcolax the evening before you stop eating and then magnesium citrate the following afternoon. Much easier but still intense when it kicks in. It would have been so easy to just blow it off but I’m glad I got the damn thing over with.

          • barkingspider07

            Hopefully everything went and turned out well for you.  You know, it really sucks to get older!

          • barkingspider07

            Unfortunately, in the hospital that I was in at the time, they didn’t give me a choice of flavors.  I probably would have picked the cherry also, as it is usually a strong flavor.  As far as the number of tests that you had, two dozen is no big deal – because you’re alive and healthy.  That’s all that matters.

          • BrooklynBus

            I’ve had all of mine done in the the doctor’s office. They were nothing compared to the operation which had to be postponed for three weeks because I had a cold, during which time I wasn’t allowed any solid food. The pain for 18 hours after the operation was the worst. All I can say is thank God for morphine which made it just bearable so that I didn’t have to scream.  If you’ve been postponing going, take it from someone who has been there. Spare yourself what I went through or worse.  Get yourself checked out. Make an appointment tomorrow. 

      • nolastname

        You were very lucky. Very early signs to have a colonoscopy could be as simple as a hemroid. These can be caused by spicy foods and be a forewarning to more internal problems. 
        Off subject but what are your thoughts on colon cleansing?   

        • BrooklynBus

          When the doctor told me I would be okay, I didn’t believe him. Later, I learned that I only had a 50  /50 chance.  That’s when I realized how lucky I was. My operation was on Thanksgiving and you know i’m extra thankful every time I celebrate another one. 

          I never had any polyps but I know several people who went and the doctor found polyps and removed them.  One of those people told me he never would have gone for a check up if not for me, although I never told him to get checked out. 

          As far as colon cleansing, I never really looked into it, but I get the feeling it is just a scam.  No doctor ever recommended it to me. 

    • nolastname

      Thanks for sharing. I had my first colonoscopy at 54. Because of the cancerous tumor (1 out of 3) they found I am having my recommended 3 year colonoscopy this month. You don’t have to tell me twice. 

      • barkingspider07

        Good luck with your next colonoscopy. Doing what you are supposed to do, I’m sure that you will get a clean bill of health and live a long and happy life.  

  • Daniel

    i think they got it wrong, at least partially wrong. older russian folks USUALLY go to russian doctors.  russian doctors do the procedure, yet find better (more expensive precedures) to bill for than colonoscopy. statistics are based on insurance company/medicaid/related reportings

  • Common sense

    which population leads in this regard? West village? ;)

  • Common sense

    which population leads in this regard? West village? ;)

    • barkingspider07

      Dumb!

  • JEngdahlJ

    New study estimates
    major savings potential for colon cancer patients.
    http://www.healthcaretownhall.com/?p=4416

  • TITANIUMDX

    I had mine a few months ago.

    This is how it went:
    - Special Sports Drink
    - Some Time At the Throne
    - Then the Relentless Search for Mr. Hanky

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  • anna

    anyone know of russian speaking cancer support groups?