Approximately 1,400 New Yorkers die of colorectal cancer each year, and now with an annual awareness push under way, the city and its hospitals are trying to bring that number down significantly. NY1's Erin Billups filed the following report.
After experiencing symptoms and undergoing an emergency colonoscopy, Jay Einbender was diagnosed with stage three colon cancer.
"I was feeling fatigue... my stools were changing, becoming thinner... I didn't put all the pieces of the puzzle together because I really thought I was in perfect health," recalls Einbender.
Einbender had to have about 14 inches of his colon removed last May and underwent chemotherapy in November.
"Had I had my colonoscopy at age 50, I would have caught it at a much earlier stage. As Doctor Pochapin told me my tumor may have been growing for anywhere for five to 10 years," says Einbender.
NYU Langone Medical Center is one of many hospitals, including the New York City Health and Hospital Corporation, urging those 50 and older to get screened for colorectal cancer.
"Colon cancer disease is not only preventable, but curable when picked up early. So that irony is really frustrating, that we can do so much about this disease yet a lot of people are either diagnosed late stage or don't know that the time to get screened is when they're feeling well," says NYU Langone Gastroenterology Dept. Director Dr. Mark Pochapin.
There are still a lot of misconceptions about colonoscopies, which are much less invasive now, even about who is at risk: Women are just as vulnerable as men.
"Colon and men somehow seem to be associated with each other. There’s no medical information that would suggest that colon cancer is a man's disease," says Pochapin.
Screenings at age 45 are recommended for African Americans, those with a family history of cancer and inflammatory bowel disease.
"You don't want to wait when you're having tremendous symptoms: Pain, bleeding, change in bowel habits, unexplained weight," says Pochapin.
If Einbender had waited any longer to be checked out his diagnosis could have been even more dire.
"When you can prevent something you've got to take the necessary steps to do it. The ramifications for yourself as well as to those who love you are pretty extreme," says Einbender.