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Healthwatch 16: Colon Cancer Screening

SCRANTON, Pa. -- The prevalence of colon cancer in this area is higher than the national average. A man from Lackawanna County learned that it can strike anyone, at any age.

Michael Dyson of Madison Township remembers feeling some discomfort in the spring of 2016.

"I started having cramping, abdominal cramping. You go through that every so often. But then I started noticing black, tarry stools. You figure it's probably nothing," Dyson said.

But it wasn't nothing, and it didn't go away.

"Then there was one time it was really bad. It sends a chill down your spine, and I thought, 'I have to get this checked out.'"

Michael had a colonoscopy, his first, at age 45. That's five years from the typical recommended screening start. It found a tumor in his colon with 90 percent blockage and it was cancerous.

Michael's story illustrates just how important a colonoscopy can be, according to Dr. Charles Grad. He's a gastroenterologist at Geisinger CMC in Scranton.

"It's a fairly easy test, really. It's amazing how easy the test is," the doctor said.

Dr. Grad says the procedure is greatly improved from years past. He adds finding a polyp early is key. A polyp that measures about a centimeter has a 5 percent chance of having cancer cells already.

"The normal time frame is 50. African Americans we may start at 45, and if a family member has had it below 50, you could be starting your colon cancer screenings in your 20s or 30s," Dr. Grad explained.

Michael is now monitored but feels great and has had clear scans since he was treated.

And he reminds everyone: not to be scared of a colonoscopy.

"Just do it!" he said. "People make a big deal out of prep and all that, but it's really not that bad, just a couple hours out of your day."