This was the first time for actor Ryan Reynolds, who allowed the video crew to capture a colonoscopy examination on camera to raise awareness of the increased diagnosis of colon cancer among people under the age of 50. Colorectal cancer is the third most common type of cancer diagnosed in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society.
“You can’t raise awareness every day about something that will definitely save lives. That’s enough motivation for me to let you in on a camera being pushed up,” Reynolds said in the video they shared with the audience.
“Did they find a Rosebud there?” Reynolds asks a nurse when the procedure is over.
Actor Rob McKellenny, who created and starred in the feature-length comedy It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, collaborated with Reynolds on the project and also underwent a video colonoscopy.
“If they find a sorrel tumor, then either it’s bigger than him—which is cool—or it’s smaller than him, which means I have less chance of getting cancer. Either way I win,” McKellenny told the camera while waiting for his procedure.
While joking and making fun of each other, Reynolds and McElhenney explained that they were there to raise awareness about new guidelines that reduce the age for colon screening from 50 to 45.
“Rob and I, we turned 45 this year,” Reynolds said in the video. “You know, part of being at this age is having a colonoscopy. It’s a simple step that could literally save your life — and I mean literally —.”
Reynolds’ procedure, conducted by CBS chief medical correspondent Jonathan Labock, led to the discovery A small tumor in the active colon.
“I did such good preparation that I was able to find a very subtle polyp on the right side of my colon,” Labock told Reynolds after the operation.
“This could have potentially saved your life. I’m not kidding. I’m not being overly dramatic. That’s exactly why you did it,” Labock added.
During McElhenney’s procedure, Los Angeles gastroenterologist Dr. Leo Treyzon found three very small polyps.
“It wasn’t a big deal but it’s definitely a good thing that we found it early and removed it,” Trizon told the actor in recovery.
McElhenney, who behaved gladly as he struck Reynolds’ only tumor, then asked the doctor what he could do to prevent a recurrence.
Trizon replied that there is no good evidence yet that changes in diet can make a difference, “but what makes a difference is screening and monitoring.”
Reynolds and McElhenney are the co-chairs of the Welsh Football Club Wrexham AFC, a fifth-tier football club founded in 1864 in a moribund mining town in Wales. The two invested in the club to bring life back to the community. The trip inspired a documentary series on FX called Welcome to Wrexham.
“You know, the core of all sports is competition, and I think Rob and I think we’re competitive players,” Reynolds said in the introduction to the video. “We’re very competitive, in fact, Ryan and I bet last year,” McElhenney added.
The bet was that if McCleary could learn to speak Welsh, Reynolds would undergo a general colonoscopy.
“Did we?” Reynolds replied innocently. “I don’t remember that.”
When McElhenney begins explaining the bet in Welsh, Reynolds breaks down and admits he did the bet.
The new video, produced in partnership with the Colorectal Cancer Alliance and another colon cancer awareness organization, Lead From Behind, does not show the same colonoscopy procedure, either for Reynolds or McElhenney. The video showed only anesthesia and recovery.
In contrast, former Today Show host Katie Couric aired her entire procedure in 2000—from prep the night before to lightly threatening Couric watching the procedure as it unfolds.
To perform a colonoscopy, a gastroenterologist rotates a flexible tube topped with a small camera into the rectum and throughout the colon to look for small tumors called polyps that can turn cancerous.
“I have a very small colon,” Couric said with a chuckle as she watched the video projection from the endoscope into the colon. “You haven’t set the scope yet, have you?” asked Couric, whose husband died of colon cancer at the age of 42 in 1998.
“Yes! We’re running the checkup. We’re almost done,” said her doctor, Dr. Kenneth Forde, who has taught for nearly 40 years at Columbia University’s Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. Forde died in 2019.
As Couric experience showed, that the procedure is relatively painless, even when awake. However, like Reynolds and McElhenney, most people are more sedated and rarely wake up during a colonoscopy.
Couric posted on Reynolds’ Instagram account in response to the video: “Go Ryan! (Wait! I already did!) Thank you for spreading the word!”
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