Even if you don't have insurance, or a primary care provider you can get a colonoscopy done. All of the city run hospitals are equipped with navigators to help patients through the process. NY1's health reporter Erin Billups was there as one patient went through the procedure.
Sixty-year-old Elmore Paulson is in for his second colonoscopy in well over a decade.
"I should have got it before now. I waited too long," said Elmore Paulson.
Paulson's father died of colon cancer which means he's at higher risk, and should get screened every five years. It's not a simple procedure. You have to clear a day on your calendar, and prepare the night before, by cleaning your system out.
"So in other words, you're running back and forth to the bathroom," said Paulson.
Gastroenterologist Harry Winters preps the equipment for Paulson's exam.
"This colonoscope will be inserted into the patient's rectum and guided gently around the large intestine," said Winters chief of Woodhull Hospital Gastroenterology.
Using the camera and video monitors as a guide Winters explains what he looks for.
"We examine the inside lining of the colon and we see any growths called polyps. We remove them at the same time during the colonoscopy," said Winters.
"Some people, they think about this stuff and they say, I'm not going to do that. It's a very slow form of cancer, so if you can catch it from the beginning, you got a good chance," said Paulson.
Paulson is taken to the endoscopy room. Winters and his team sedate him. Paulson is awake, but feels only pressure. Colonoscopies usually take 15 to 20 minutes. Paulson's procedure took about 45 minutes due to some unexpected findings.
"It appeared at first that you might have two large polyps. Very large polyps," said Winters to Paulson.
It turned out they were just inflamed folds. Winters took a biopsy just in case and that's not all he found.
"I did find two polyps, two definite polyps which I removed. I can say the probability is that they're benign," said Winters.
The tissue was sent to the lab for full examination. Cancerous polyps are found in about one in 100 colonoscopies. Paulson says he's not worried he'd rather know.
"After all of this time, I'm lucky it wasn't more polyps," said Paulson.
Paulson says he'll be back in five years.
If you refuse to get the recommended colonoscopy, Winters says those 50 and older should ask their physician about alternative screenings.