Thirty percent more New Yorkers are getting screened for colon cancer today than there were a decade ago. But even with the strides that have been made, many are still slipping through the cracks. NY1's Erin Billups filed the following report.
Most disparities associated with getting colon cancer screenings have been eliminated in the city, whether it's your ethnicity, language or where you live, it's no longer a factor.
It seems, a majority of New Yorkers 50 or older agree that getting screened makes sense.
"Ultimately it is saving not only lives but money for the healthcare system, significantly," says Senior Director for the Cancer Prevention Program at NYC Department of Health Mari Carlesimo.
But Carlesimo says there are still two groups of people the city needs to target more.
"The key disparity that we are looking at now and focusing on is the gap between the insured and the uninsured and similarly between those who have a primary care physician and those who don't," says Carlesimo.
With the uninsured, screening rates have improved slightly over the past decade, but are not where they could be. Of the 30 percent who are unscreened, 83 percent of them actually have primary care providers. First off, officials are trying to spread the word that under the Affordable Care Act insurance companies have to cover your colonoscopy completely.
"You can get this covered, it won't cost you a dime. And it's very, very cureable if it's caught," explains New York State Financial Services Superintendent Benjamin Lawsky.
But Carlesimo says what is more likely the issue are personal barriers preventing folks from getting screened.
"We think we're probably dealing with people who are a little more reluctant to go and get a colonoscopy and need a little bit more support. Remember a coloscopy isn't a blood test. It's a complicated procedure," says Carlesimo.
So the city is expanding its navigator program where patients are linked with a guide who makes sure they're comfortable and that their concerns are addressed.
"We make sure that they're scheduled the day they want to. Just to basically walk them through the process of having the colonoscopy, and holding their hands if they need hand holding," says Woodhull Hospital Gastroenterology Patient Navigator Barbara Blase.
Already the program is in 20 hospitals including all city-run facilities. Now the Health Department is working on getting navigators into public and private primary care practices.