U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice and Nassau County Legis. Rose Walker joined doctors, staff, and patients of Gastroenterology Associates, one of the largest gastroenterology practices on Long Island, in helping raise awareness about colorectal cancer at the grand opening of its recently relocated offices and outpatient facility, the Long Island Center for Digestive Health, in Uniondale.

March is National Colon Cancer Awareness Month, and the March 6 educational event and ribbon-cutting highlighted the importance of colon cancer aka colorectal cancer screening in the battle against this highly preventable disease, which claims more than 50,000 lives each year and remains the third-most common cancer in the United States and second-leading cause of cancer death.

Several patients of Gastroenterology Associates and the Long Island Center for Digestive Health shared their personal stories of survival, with each advocating for screening. Both Legis. Walker and Rep. Rice spoke briefly as well.

“I was honored an proud to attend the ribbon cutting for Gastroenterology Associates’ new headquarters—a beautiful, spacious facility with a kind, caring staff who goes out of their way to make their patients comfortable,” Legis. Walker told the Press about the experience, explaining that for her, raising awareness about colorectal cancer is personal. “It is always a pleasure to attend all the ribbon cuttings and events I am invited to, but some have a special significance.

“In 2012, I was diagnosed with Stage 3 Colorectal Cancer,” she continued. “Thanks to the love and support of my family, friends and co-workers and the excellent care of my entire medical team, all affiliated with Winthrop Hospital, I am blessed to say I am now cancer-free. I am one of the lucky ones, and I feel that I have been given the opportunity to give back—to reach out to others and share the importance of screenings.”

“I’m grateful to Dr. [Leonard B.] Stein and Dr. [Robert S.] Bartolomeo for inviting me to tour their new facility as we commemorate Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and highlight the dangers of this disease and the potentially life-saving value of regular screenings,” Rep. Rice told the Press regarding the event.

“We know that colorectal cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer among men and women combined–this year alone, more than 135,000 people will be diagnosed and more than 50,000 will die from it,” she continued. “We also know that this is one of the most highly preventable forms of cancer–the CDC estimates that we could prevent 60 percent of all colorectal cancer deaths if all adults over age 50 were regularly screened, but just one-in-three adults between age 50 and 75 are up to date on recommended screenings.

“That has to change,” she added.

Congresswoman Rice, the U.S. Representative for New York’s 4th congressional district, has long been a proponent of increasing accessibility and affordability to these life-saving preventive screenings. She is currently a cosponsor of bipartisan legislation, titled the “Removing Barriers to Colorectal Screening Act of 2017,” which would direct Medicare not to charge co-pays for colon cancer screenings that result in the discovery and removal of polyps.

Currently, under the Affordable Care Act, Medicare and private insurers aren’t supposed to charge for co-pays for such screenings, including colonoscopies, explains her office. If a patient undergoes a screening and a polyp is detected and removed, however, the procedure gets reclassified as “Therapeutic” and not simply a screening, and they can be charged a co-pay.

This bill would eliminate that possibility, ensuring that patients can’t be charged for these important screenings, whether a polyp is found and extracted or not.

Rice, a Democrat who was elected to Congress in 2014 and previously served three terms as Nassau County District Attorney where she received national acclaim for her efforts combatting drunk driving, also cosponsored this bill in the last congressional session, and also cosponsored a resolution designating March 2017 as National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month in both sessions.

Health experts advocate for regular colorectal cancer screenings for those 50 and over, stressing such preventive procedures can identify polyps before they become cancerous—though some are discouraged when there’s a chance its result could cost money, explains Rice’s office.

Thus, these legislative initiatives would remove dissuading financial barriers and actually help save lives.

Gastroenterology Associates is a renowned private group gastroenterology practice in Uniondale, NY specializing in high-quality digestive healthcare for patients experiencing a wide range of disorders. Long Island Center for Digestive Health (LICDH) is a distinguished non-hospital outpatient facility providing advanced diagnostic testing and procedures including upper endoscopy, colonoscopy, and more.

Gastroenterology Associates’ new headquarters in Uniondale boasts ground-floor access for patients, plentiful parking, and is conveniently situated near Meadowbrook Parkway, Stewart Avenue and Hempstead Turnpike. LICDH, which shares the premises, is a New York State-licensed ambulatory endoscopy center that has been awarded a Certificate of Recognition from the American Society of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy and is accredited by the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care.

This is the second consecutive year Rep. Rice has joined Gastroenterology Associates and LICDH’s staff in publicly raising awareness during Colorectal Awareness Month about the preventable disease and the significance of screening—and she vows to continue this all-important quest in Congress.

“We need to keep raising awareness and educating the public, like we did [at Gastroenterology Associates] and will continue doing all month,” Congresswoman Rice told the Press. “And we need to make screenings more affordable so that no one can be denied or discouraged from getting a procedure that could save their life.

“I’ve cosponsored bipartisan legislation that would help eliminate copays for colon cancer screenings, and I’m going to keep working to get it passed,” she added.

Legis. Walker, a Republican, further emphasized the value of colorectal cancer screening and raising awareness, explaining it could quite literally mean the difference between life and death.

“Yes, colorectal cancer is a deadly disease, yet highly preventable,” she said. “If I had gone for screening, perhaps I would not have had to go through all I did—chemo, radiation, surgery, then more chemo and more surgery—so I need to speak out to others, share my story, thank those who saved my life, and hopefully encourage everyone to follow the advice of specialists, because prevention is our first line of defense.”

Featured Photo: U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City) (far left) and Nassau Legis. Rose Walker (R-Hicksville) (far right) join staff and patients of Gastroenterology Associates and the Long Island Center for Digestive Health (LICDH) during its grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony at its new Uniondale headquarters on March 6, 2017 to help stress the importance of colorectal cancer screenings during National Colon Cancer Awareness Month.

Gastroenterology Associates is located at 106 Charles Lindbergh Blvd., Suite B, Mitchel Field, in Uniondale, NY 11553. Long Island Center for Digestive Health shares the premises, and is located in Suite C. To talk with staff or schedule an appointment, call 516-248-3737 or 516-794-1868, respectively, or visit ligastrohealth.com.

Gastroenterology Associates is a client of Morey Publishing, the parent company of the Long Island Press.

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