Colorectal cancer is cancer that occurs in the colon or rectum. These cancers can also be named colon cancer or rectal cancer, depending on where they start. Colon cancer and rectal cancer are often grouped together because they have many features in common.
As the drawing shows, the colon is the large intestine (also called the large bowel) in pink. The rectum is the passageway that connects the colon to the anus. Colon cancer affects men and women of all racial and ethnic groups, and is most often found in people ages 50 years and older. In the United States, it is the third-most common cancer for men and women.
Colon Cancer: Did You Know?
- Colon cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths in New York City.
- Over 1,200 New Yorkers die of colorectal cancer annually.
- It is one of the most preventable forms of cancer. Colonoscopies can detect precancerous growths that your doctor can remove before they become dangerous.
- Screening with colonoscopy can also help find colon cancer at an early stage, when it is more treatable.
Reduce Your Risk
You are at an increased risk for colon cancer if you are 50 or older, have a personal or family history of colon cancer, smoke, or are obese. The most effective way to reduce your risk of colon cancer is to get screened, which begins at age 50 for most people.
- If you are a smoker, take steps to quit smoking. Check out NYC Quits for resources and tips.
- Maintain a healthy weight and eat nutritious foods. The Guide to Healthy Eating and Active Living in NYC provides easy and delicious recipes and other tips on how to stay healthy.
- Exercising regularly can help you maintain a healthy weight. Shape Up NYC offers free fitness classes to all New Yorkers.
Ask your provider about the benefits and risks of colon cancer screening.
- If you are 50 years or older, you should have a colonoscopy every 10 years.
- If you are at increased risk for colon cancer based on family history or other health risks, talk to your doctor to find out what age is appropriate for you to begin screening and how often you should be tested.
- Annual high-sensitivity fecal occult blood testing (FOBT) is an alternative if you don’t want or cannot have a colonoscopy.
A colonoscopy can remove polyps — small growths that may develop into cancer if left alone — before they turn into cancer. A colonoscopy is safe and usually painless. For most people, a colonoscopy is usually needed only once every 10 years, if test results are negative.
Call your doctor for a screening, or call 311 for information on where to get screened.
Department of Health Colon Cancer Prevention Programs
Citywide Colon Cancer Control Coalition
Convened by the City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH), the Citywide Colon Cancer Control Coalition (C5) is a dedicated group of stakeholders who work together to strengthen the DOHMH colon cancer prevention and control efforts through the work of its various committees, workgroups, and initiatives. The mission of C5 is to increase awareness and screening for colon cancer in New York City in order to eliminate disparities and reduce the incidence and mortality of the disease.
NYC Community Cares Project
The NYC Community Care Project provides free screening colonoscopies to uninsured New Yorkers. Participating Endoscopy Centers provide free colonoscopy screenings to the uninsured. These Endoscopy Centers are linked with Community Health Centers / Federally Qualified Health Centers(FQHCs) that refer their uninsured patients for screening.
Colonoscopy Patient Navigator Program
The DOHMH Colonoscopy Patient Navigator Program assists patients in completing a screening colonoscopy.This program helps to reduce health disparities by assisting uninsured or under-insured New Yorkers get screened for colon cancer. Navigators are trained to help guide patients through the hospital system and throughout a patient’s colonoscopy preparation and procedure. This program has been implemented in 18 city hospitals, including all 11 Health + Hospitals facilities. In the past decade, over 115,000 patients have received help completing their screening colonoscopies.