Actor Ryan Reynolds recently turned 45, which means he is due for a colonoscopy according to the new guidelines from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. The agency says cancer screenings should begin at age 45 instead of 50 as cancer becomes increasingly prevalent in the 45 – 50 age group.
“We can make a substantial dent in that through screening,” said Dr. Michael Barry, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and vice chair of the task force. “Starting at age 45 can save additional lives and prevent additional cases by removing precancerous polyps.”
Reynolds shared the intimate experience on social media. He said he decided to broadcast the procedure after losing a bet to his friend and fellow actor Rob McElhenney.
“Part of being this age is getting a colonoscopy. It’s a simple step that could literally — and I mean literally — save your life,” Reynolds said in a video the pair made to raise awareness about the importance of getting a colonoscopy.
Prior to the colonoscopy, Dr. Lapook told him how effective it was at detecting early signs of cancer.
“It’s not every day that you can raise awareness about something that will most definitely save lives. That’s enough motivation for me to let you in on a camera being shoved up my a–,” Reynolds said in a voiceover as he walked into the hospital for the procedure.
But the experience turned out to be anything but routine.
The doctor ended up finding “an extremely subtle polyp.”
“This was potentially life-saving for you,” Reynolds said. “I’m not kidding. I’m not being overly-dramatic. This is exactly why you do this.”
Luckily, the doctor was able to remove the polyp.
“You’re interrupting the natural history of a disease, of something of a process that could have ended up developing into cancer and causing all sorts of problems,” he said.
“Instead, you’re not only diagnosing the polyp, you’re taking it out. So, nobody would know that they had this, but he reached the age of screening, 45. He got a routine screening and there you go, that’s why people need to do this. They really need to do this. This saves lives, pure and simple.”
Reynolds isn’t the first celebrity to publicly demonstrate their colonoscopy. Journalist and longtime Today Show host Katie Couric famously underwent the procedure live on TV after her husband was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2000.
McElhenney also turned 45, so he decided to get a colonoscopy as well.
His procedure revealed three small polyps that were removed.
“What does make a difference is screening and surveillance,” his doctor Dr. Treyzon said.
Reynolds and McElhenney made the video in conjunction with the Colorectal Cancer Alliance, kicking off the Lead From Behind initiative, an effort to raise awareness about colon cancer and taking steps to prevent it.
“I’ve been on camera a lot. But this was the first time one was shoved up my a–,” Reynolds said in a statement. “The procedure and prep were painless but the discomfort of filming and sharing the process was the hardest part. Rob and I did it because we want this potentially life-saving procedure to be less mysterious and stigmatized.”
In announcing the new initiative, Lead From Behind noted that colon cancer is growing among younger people and may become the No. 1 fatal cancer among people under 50 by 2030.