Staten Island Advance/Irving Silverstein
Dr. Mark Jarrett, chief medical officer at SIUH, and
Dr. Sherif Farag, chief of gastroenterology at RUMC,
were on hand at Borough Hall's Colon Cancer
Awareness Month ceremony.
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Borough Hall was decked out in blue yesterday for a proclamation ceremony to promote colon cancer awareness and encourage people 50 and older to get checked.
Colon cancer is the third-most-commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States and the second-most-common cause of cancer death for Americans.
But it is a beatable and treatable disease.
Colon cancer has a survival rate of 91 percent if it is diagnosed early, said Joanne Nuzzo, director of special events for Borough President James Molinaro. Ms. Nuzzo, who led the ceremony because Molinaro was detained in Manhattan, lost a grandmother and two aunts to the disease.
“Colon cancer is clearly something that is preventable in many cases, and certainly early recognition increases survival,” said Dr. Mark Jarrett, chief medical officer of Staten Island University Hospital.
To that end, yesterday’s ceremony in conjunction with SIUH and the state Health Department’s Cancer Services Program recognized 23 individuals and organizations that have helped with colon cancer initiatives, especially for those lacking insurance.
“We don’t want to see people not get proper cancer screenings just because they have an affordability problem,” said Dr. Jarrett. “That’s something that should not occur in our society.”
The Cancer Services Program, based in SIUH, provides free colorectal and other types of cancer screenings to the borough’s underinsured and uninsured at the Ocean Breeze hospital, as well as Richmond University Medical Center.
Anthony Ferreri, president and CEO of SIUH, acknowledged the groundwork done nearly a decade ago by Dr. Vincent Sottile at SIUH and Dr. Frank Forte at the former St. Vincent’s Medical Center in West Brighton for colon cancer-prevention outreach.
While it is not certain what causes colon cancer, how it develops is, explained Dr. Sherif Farag, director of gastroenterology at RUMC.
Polyps or abnormal growths in the colon can be benign but may progress to colon cancer. A colonoscopy can find precancerous polyps, so that they can be removed before they turn into cancer.
“It’s amazing that we can think of this disease as a preventable disease and even a curable disease. Not very many cancers can we say we can cure, but colon cancer is one of those,” said Dr. Farag.
“In order to do this we need awareness, education and access. And the access issue is the most important, especially in the underserved population.”