Dozens of Kehilla Reps Gather for New Colon Cancer Screening Push
By Yochonon Donn
A new program aimed at bolstering the health of residents took a major leap forward at a breakfast this morning, with representatives of the bulk of the neighborhood's kehillas gathering for a final push at a forthcoming colon cancer awareness campaign.
Makdim -- as in makdim refuah l'makkah -- was established several months ago by the Boro Park Jewish Community Council and Yachad of Bobov and was developed by veteran askan Chaim Fleischer. Its first significant campaign will encourage residents to take a screening for colon cancer, the only cancer that can be detected early.
"A colonoscopy," said Dr. Aron Tokayer, a professor of gastroenterology at Maimonides Medical Center who is leading the awareness effort, "is the gold standard for cancer screenings."
"When a Jew gets sick," added Chaskie Rosenberg, the director of Yachad, "they don't just go to any doctor. They run to the best doctor there is. So why, when it comes to screenings, shouldn't we do the best?"
Since the Boro Park JCC established its health arm in the summer, it has inaugurated a monthly health journal and named an oversight board consisting of Boro Park's leading physicians. Its first initiative is to launch a colon cancer screening campaign, with each kehilla leading its own process.
Avi Greenstein, the CEO of the BPJCC, told the three dozen people assembled in the organization's ballroom that Makdim will make available a doctor and literature to any kehilla that wants to participate in the campaign.
Cheskie Rosenberg rattled off a list of data points, explaining that colon cancer is the only one of its genre that can be detected early and save lives. In a previous campaign in one kehilla, one in 12 people who got tested were found with polyps that were able to be removed before turning malignant.
Rosenberg lamented that the issue has gone unnoticed until now.
"There is no doctor in our community who makes sure that each person gets reminded to get a colonoscopy every five years," he said. "This is a good thing to start off with."
Dr. Tokayer explained that a pimple, or polyp, in the colon might have only a one in a billion chance of turning cancerous. Still, the genetic turnover it causes may rapidly bring down the odds to dangerous levels. One out of nine people with polyps may develop cancer, he said.
The screening should be done by age 45, rather than the previous recommendation of 50, due to an increase in younger people developing colon cancer.
The more people who screen for it, he emphasized, the greater the chance of reducing this form of cancer.
"Through this organization Makdim," he said, "I've seen a tremendous increase in the number of people we're reaching. Before, it was dismal, and now the goal is to reach 80 percent of the community. And we're going to reach that goal in the next year or so."
Greenstein said that the screenings are only one facet of the health programs the BPJCC's partnership with Yachad is planning.
"If we can save even one life, it is all worth it," Greenstein said. "And we can say, boruch Hashem, that this has already saved lives."