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The Consulate General of India in New York, in association with Northwell Health, recently hosted an information session on the importance of colon cancer screening and prevention for the Indian American community.  The incidence of colon cancer among Indian Americans living in the US is estimated at 15 cases per 100,000 individuals according to a study by the International Journal of Epidemiology and is higher than in those residing in India.

So, awareness of the importance of colonoscopies is critical. The two-hour event – Colon Cancer Screening: An Indian Perspective – featured Lenox Hill gastroenterologists Aakash Aggarwal, MDArun Swaminath, MD, Director of the inflammatory bowel disease program at Lenox and moderator Patrick Okolo, MD, chief of the division of gastroenterology at Lenox Hill and professor of medicine at Northwell’s Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra.

According to the World Cancer Research Fund, colorectal cancer (which includes both colon and rectal cancers) is the third most common cancer worldwide, for both men and women, with 1.8 million new cases reported in 2018. Colorectal cancer is expected to cause about 51,020 deaths during 2019 and the US Preventive Services Task Force recommends (USPSTF) recommends that adults aged 50–75 should have a colonoscopy every 10 years.

Most colorectal cancers typically start as small abnormal growths (called polyps) that form in the inner lining of the large intestine. Over time, some polyps can become cancerous and grow into the wall of the colon or rectum.

Colon cancer is usually treated with surgery, often in combination with chemotherapy.The good news is that routine colon screenings lets doctors find and remove colorectal polyps before they turn malignant or identify cancerous cell clusters earlier when the disease is easier to treat.

The USPSTF also recommends several less invasive tests for low-risk people aged 50 to 74, who have no prior history, family history, genetic disposition or symptoms to the disease. These include virtual colonoscopies, like the one President Obama had in 2010, a test that uses special X-ray machines to examine the colon. Other options include sigmoidoscopy, which uses a lighted tube and camera to examine just the lower portion of the colon and rectum, or home stool tests such as fecal occult blood tests.

Healthier lifestyles and advancements in treatment over the last few decades have reduced the overall death rate for colorectal cancer; there are now more than one million survivors of colorectal cancer in the United States.

Getting tested in any variety of ways is a good thing.

Lenox Hill Hospital has a national reputation for outstanding patient care and innovative medical and surgical treatments.Its highly rated gastroenterology department performs more than 4,500 colonoscopies annually. To make an appointment with a Lenox Hill Hospital gastroenterologist call 212-434-5596 or go to for more information.

Meera Kymal is a Contributing Editor at India Currents.


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