Colon cancer report prompts concern

A report issued Monday by the American Cancer Society shows patients in the Capital Region are being

A report issued Monday by the American Cancer Society shows patients in the Capital Region are being diagnosed with late-stage colon cancer at a rate higher than the state average.

People diagnosed with colon cancer at an early stage have a 90 percent chance of surviving for five years after the diagnosis, according to the ACS. But those diagnosed with late-stage colon cancer, when the disease has crept into adjacent organs or lymph nodes, have a 68 percent five-year survival rate.

Statewide, ab- out 60 percent of people diagnosed with colon cancer are found to be in the later stages of the disease, according to the study which compiled state Health Department data from 2000 through 2004.

For the second year in a row, Fulton County ranked on the top of the list of later-stage diagnoses with 73.6 percent of diagnosed cases considered less treatable due to their progression, according to the report.

Albany and Schoharie counties also exceeded the state average of late diagnoses with 61.9 and 64.6 percent of cases, respectively, falling into that category, according to the ACS.

Late diagnoses cases in Saratoga County were at 55.5 percent and at 54.6 percent in Schenectady County, according to the report.

“It tells us that people aren’t getting tested,” American Cancer Society spokesman Paul McGee said.

Lack of health insurance and transportation to available services are cited as possible reasons why more people don’t get checked for colon cancer sooner, said McGee.

“If people feel that they don’t have the means to pay for a cancer diagnosis or cancer treatment, they might not get screened,” McGee said.

“It’s clearly something the public needs to be aware of and it’s an alarm bell. If people aren’t getting tested, they’re putting themselves at a much higher risk of not surviving,” McGee said.

Within the last two years, McGee said the state passed a colon cancer treatment act that helps people with colon cancer access treatment through Medicaid.

Fulton County Public Health Director Denise Frederick on Monday said recent changes in a state-funded program may help more people get tested.

Up until two months ago, health officials in Fulton and Montgomery counties participated in a “Healthy Women’s Partnership,” which helped women get tested and find treatment for breast and colon cancer, Frederick said. That program didn’t offer any services to men, Frederick said.

“You’re leaving out half the population,” doing it that way, she said.

The program now has a new name, “Screen for Life,” a cooperative effort between Fulton, Montgomery and Schoharie counties, Frederick said, and colorectal cancer is a new focus of the initiative.

“As everybody knows, early detection is the best cure. Knowing that we have a lower-income community in this area, by broadening this initiative, we’re hoping to reach the people that cannot afford early screening services,” Frederick said.

A description of the Screen for Life program and details on help for those unable to afford screening can be found on the St. Mary’s Hospital Web site at More information also may be obtained by calling 770-7516.

Details on colon cancer can be found on the American Cancer Society Web site at

Categories: Schenectady County

Leave a Reply