Safe to say that when it comes to those experiences we dread simply due to sheer unpleasantness or embarrassment alone, a colonoscopy rates highly. The experience of having a flexible tube (albeit, a thin one) poked inside the rectum as a means of checking for polyps isn’t exactly the kind of venture that sends one rushing to the nearest doctor, but the process is one that’s significant for overall health. As Ryan Reynolds knows all too well, it’s one that could just prove lifesaving.
As Reynolds and co-star Rob McElhenney promote their most recent series, Welcome to Wrexham, detailing their roles as cochairmen of a Welsh football club, they happened to recently release a video of themselves getting colonoscopies to raise colon cancer awareness. Having both turned 45 last year, both leading men now find themselves at an age where regular colonoscopies is imperative to their health due to the need to screen for colorectal cancer.
If you’re wondering why they would choose to film such an endeavour, you’re not alone. But as all things that revolve around Reynolds tend to do, it’s one that saw the men wager a bet with each other. “Ryan bet that I would not learn how to speak Welsh,” explained McElhenney. “He was so sure, he said he’d publicly broadcast his colonoscopy if I could do it.”
Holding up his end of the bargain, Reynolds allowed a camera crew follow him into a hospital for his first colonoscopy. According to the Mayo Clinic, colonoscopies refer to the scanning of the colon for polyps. A colorectal polyp is a small clump of cells that can develop on the lining of the colon which, although often harmless, can also turn into cancer over time. It’s for this reason that screening is essential, as regular colonoscopies not only prevent colon cancer from progressing into later cancers, but they also allow for the removal of polyps should they be found.
As Reynolds’ doctor explained to him during his “stunningly effective” 30-minute procedure, the small polyp that was found on the right side of the colon could have proven lifesaving. “This was potentially lifesaving for you,” said the doctor. “I’m not being overly dramatic. This is exactly why you do this. You had no symptoms…Nobody would know they had this.”
The doctor added, “You are interrupting the natural history of a disease process that could have ended up developing into cancer and causing all sorts of problems. That’s why people need to do this. This saves lives, pure and simple.”
According to researchers, colonoscopies are recommended every 10 years once you’ve turned 45. Though considered rare, the disease is on the rise in young adults, per data from the National Cancer Institute. As detailed in Self, “nearly 18,000 people under the age of 50 will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer this year in the US.” It’s a disease that saw Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman lose his life at 43-years-old, sparking a larger conversation around the disease and the racial disparities that often see minorities miss out on early detection and treatment.
Potential warning signs of colon cancer include a sudden or persistent change in bowel movements, rectal bleeding, blood in the stool, unexplained abdominal pain or cramping, ongoing weakness and fatigue, and consistent weight loss without tying. If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s best to consult your doctor straight away for a colonoscopy.
For Reynolds, his colonoscopy may have been shrouded in humour and laughs, but ultimately it is one that served to encourage wider conversation and raise awareness about the disease to help educate others about the need for important screenings. “It’s not every day that you can raise awareness about something that will most definitely save lives,” said the star.
“That’s enough motivation for me to let you in on a camera being shoved up my ass.”