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Syracuse Healthcare Organizations Pledge to Increase Colo-Rectal Cancer Screenings

Doctor David Halleran stands at a podium in front of an American Cancer Society backdrop.
Credit Zhiyan Zhong
Dr. David Halleran, Chief of Surgery at Upstate’s Community Campus and a colo-rectal surgeon discusses the need for and benefits of screenings Tuesday at Syracuse Community Health Center. Halleran said raising screenings to 80 percent could more than half the number of cancer cases.

  A range of businesses and health care institutions is teaming up to cut the number of colo-rectal cancer cases in half. Crouse Hospital, Upstate Medical Center, Syracuse VA Medical Center and nine other healthcare systems joined the American Cancer Society Tuesday at Syracuse Community Health Center to pledge to increase awareness and screenings for colo-rectal cancer. 

Doctor David Halleran, Chief of Surgery at Upstate’s Community Campus and a colo-rectal surgeon, said one problem is colon cancer shows no early symptoms

“We still see a lot of advanced cancers,”Halleran said. “You have to remember, in the colon, there are no short pain fibers. For things to become symptomatic, they have get fairly advanced – not necessarily incurable by any means – but large enough to either bleed, block, or change your bowel habit. And you won’t know that early on necessarily.”

However, Halleran said screenings can catch abnormal growths before they become cancerous.  He said that’s part of the reason the number of colo-rectal cancer cases has gone down by 30% in the last decade. 

The new goal of the hospitals, insurers and other health care groups is to have 80% screening level of adults 50 years and older by 2018. Halleran said that level of screening could the number of all cases by more than half. 

Syracuse Community Health President Leola Rodgers said new policies help her low-income and no-insurance clients get screened.

Syracuse Community Health president Leola Rodgers leans over to sign a poster version of the 80 percent by 2018 pledge
Credit Zhiyan Zhong
Syracuse Community Health president Leola Rodgers signs the 80 percent by 2018 pledge. Rodgers said part of the initiative includes providing free screening kits at Kinney Drugs.

  “Part of it is making sure that when the doctor sees them, they go down that list of all the things that their patients need at the time,” Rodgers said. “Again, we have Kinney Drugs, so with this kit – the new kit test screening that we’re going to have – they can drop off the results right there. And those results, they can go online and into the system for the physicians to see, and then to contact their patients to let them know what the results are."

The Kinney Drug screening kits are available for free to help increase the number of screenings.  Onondaga County has one of the highest levels of screening in the state – over 75 percent.  But other counties in the region have only just over half of adults between 50 and 75 getting tested.

More information about the “80 percent by 2018” campaign for colo-rectal cancer screening is at