Colon cancer deaths in Onondaga County drop nearly 30% over the last 20 years

Colon cancer is still the third leading cause of cancer death in New York, but in counties around the state, the mortality rate has been dropping.

In Onondaga County the mortality rate from colon cancer dropped almost 30% over the past twenty years.

"The good news is the incident rate is lowering, the mortality rate is lowering which is terrific. What we are finding is that the people who are being diagnosed with cancer are being diagnosed at much later stage," said Lisa Smith, of the American Cancer Society.

Early stage colon cancer is often easy to treat but late stage colon cancer can be much more difficult.

The percentage of patients diagnosed at a later stage has risen in several upstate counties including Cayuga, Onondaga, Cortland and Oswego.

Smith said many people may not know about the help that is available for anyone 50 and over to get a screening.

"If you're uninsured or underinsured there is an opportunity to get screened. So there is no excuse,â?? Smith said.

Local doctors are hoping these numbers will inspire more people over 50 to have a colon cancer screening.

They said even if you feel fine - with colon cancer, what you don't know can kill you.

Dr. John Nicholson, a colorectal surgeon, said while incredible progress has been made in the past 30 years, colon screening still suffers from a stigma - and many people are still unwilling to be screened.

â??The polyps are silent killers because you don't know you have one as a rule - and until you start having symptoms and that's when it can become more of a malignant polyp,â?? Nicholson said.

The American Cancer Society is worried the increase in late stage diagnosis could push colon cancer mortality rates back up.