Ryan Reynolds gets a colonoscopy on camera — when should you get one?

·6 min read
Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney shared their colonoscopies on YouTube. (Photo via YouTube/ryanreynolds)
Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney shared their colonoscopies on YouTube. (Photo via YouTube/ryanreynolds)

This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Contact a qualified medical professional before engaging in any physical activity, or making any changes to your diet, medication or lifestyle.

Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney are getting up close and personal for a good cause.

In a new video from Lead From Behind, a colon cancer awareness organization, the actors and soccer club owners shared their experiences getting preventative colonoscopies on Tuesday morning.

The clip opened with the duo, both 45, who revealed that if McElhenney learned to speak Welsh, the "Green Lantern" actor would allow his colonoscopy experience to be filmed.

"It's a simple step that could literally — and I mean literally — save your life," Reynolds explain in the video. He also told fans that the best way to prevent colon cancer is to get a colonoscopy when you turn 45.

The video showed the "Deadpool" star arriving for his procedure and being told by a doctor that the "effective" test only takes 30 minutes.

Afterwards, the doctor told Reynolds that he found a "subtle polyp" on the right side of his colon, which was "potentially life-saving" for him.

"This is exactly why you do this," the doctor said. "You had no symptoms." The medical professional went on to explain that the polyp could have developed into cancer in the future.

In the video's comments, fans thanked the men for spreading awareness.

"Can we take a moment to appreciate how all-round wholesome Ryan Reynolds is? From making the best movie of 2016 to colon cancer awareness ads. This man is literally godsend!" wrote a fan.

"Well done for highlighting an important part of men (and women’s) health!" shared someone else.

"Kudos, guys. Well done. Had mine earlier this year and felt exactly like Rob looked when waking up. The two of you are killing it and I love the humour and the camaraderie. Thanks for the awareness," penned another.

November. Hipster men in dark shirt with blue ribbon in hands isolated on white background. Awareness prostate cancer of men health. Supporting people living and illness
A colonoscopy is one of the best ways to prevent colon cancer. (Photo via Getty)

Colorectal cancer, or colon cancer as it's more commonly referred to, is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in Canada, and yet, it's one of the least talked about.

Consistent with prostate, lung and breast cancers, colorectal cancer accounts for roughly 11 per cent of all new cancer cases in Canada (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer).

According to Canadian Cancer Statistics, approximately one in 14 men will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer in their lifetimes, alongside one in every 18 women.

If caught in its early stages, colorectal cancer is 90 per cent curable. What are the signs and symptoms of the disease and when should you get screened? Here's what you need to know.

What is colorectal cancer?

Colorectal cancer is a disease that affects your large intestine (colon) or your rectum (the end of the colon).

Colon and rectal cancers are grouped together as colorectal cancer because the two organs are made of the same tissues without a distinct border between them.

When cells in the colon or rectum no longer grow or behave normally, the changes may lead to non-cancerous tumours, precancerous conditions (i.e. adenomas) or colorectal cancer.

Colorectal cancer can affect anyone at any age —"Black Panther" actor Chadwick Boseman passed away from the disease at age 43. However, 93 per cent of cases in Canada occur in adults aged 50 and over.

"Black Panther" actor Chadwick Boseman died of colon cancer at age 43. (Photo via Getty)
"Black Panther" actor Chadwick Boseman died of colon cancer at age 43. (Photo via Getty)

What are the warning signs and symptoms of colon cancer?

Colorectal cancer may not present any significant signs or symptoms in its early stages, making it all the more important to stay up-to-date on your colon health and get screened regularly.

According to the Canadian Cancer Society, a polyp can take as long as 10 to 15 years to develop into cancer. Therefore, symptoms often only start appearing once a tumour grows and affects the surrounding organs and tissues. The early signs of colorectal cancer are often similar to other health conditions, including anemia and irritable bowel syndrome.

Dr. Monika Krzyzanowska, a medical oncologist at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, says one of the early signs of the disease is a change in bowel habits.

"[People] may not be going as often [to the bathroom] as they usually do," she tells Yahoo Canada over the phone. "The calibre of your stool may change. For example, it can become thinner or more narrow."

Krzyzanowska notes that abdominal pain, bleeding and unexplained weight loss are causes for concern, alongside iron-deficiency anemia.

"One of the things people may not know [to pay attention to] is iron-deficiency anemia," she says. "They may be feeling tired, go see their family doctor, and are found to be anemic. This can sometimes be an initial presentation of colon cancer."

Other signs or symptoms of colorectal cancer may include:

  • Diarrhea

  • Constipation

  • Narrow stool (compared to average)

  • Blood in the stool

  • Unexplained weight loss

  • Anemia

  • Abdominal cramps and pain

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Pain or discomfort in the rectum

  • Bleeding from the rectum

Constipation, diarrhea, and abdominal pain may be signs of colon cancer (Photo via Getty).
Constipation, diarrhea, and abdominal pain may be signs of colon cancer (Photo via Getty).

Krzyzanowska says the urgent symptoms you should never ignore are "any sort of severe abdominal pain or abdominal pain associated with nausea, vomiting and an inability to pass stool," as they could be symptoms of a bowel obstruction.

Who is at risk for colon cancer?

Colorectal cancer can affect anyone, but people living with inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis) are at an increased risk compared to the general population.

The average age of a colorectal cancer diagnosis is in people aged 50 and over, with the risk increasing with age.

Risk factors include a family history of polyps and colon cancer, obesity, smoking, alcohol, sedentary behaviour and a diet high in processed and red meat.

"Ironically, a lot of the lifestyle factors [that are good for colon health] are good for other things as well," says Krzyzanowska. "Having a healthy diet, not smoking and having a good weight" can decrease your risk of the disease.

Should you get screened for colon cancer?

Short answer: yes.

While Kristen Bell previously shared that she had an elective colonoscopy at age 41, in Canada, screening for colorectal cancer is recommended for average-risk adults aged 50 to 74 years with a stool test. If you're at higher risk, your doctor may suggest to begin screening early.

While a stool test is no one's idea of a good time, it saves thousands of lives every year.

"Colon cancer is one of the few cancers that we do have an effective screening test," says Krzyzanowska. "The evidence is quite strong that screening for colon cancer can decrease the incident [rate] and increases survival, so if you're in the right age group, go ahead and get screened."

Similar to cervical cancer screening, screening for colorectal cancer looks to find and identify polyps before they ever become cancerous.

Stool tests save thousands of lives each year (Photo via Getty).
Stool tests save thousands of lives each year (Photo via Getty).

"If you're picking up a polyp, and you can remove it, then you're moving the diagnosis a lot earlier in the disease course," Krzyzanowska says.

"I know it's scary to think you might have cancer, but it's better to be picked up early or at the pre-cancerous stage."

Colorectal cancer is "treatable, but you need to be availing yourself to the screening tests that are available," she says. "If you're having any kind of symptoms, seeking medical attention early" can save your life.

To learn more about colorectal cancer in Canada, see the resources below.

Let us know what you think by commenting below and tweeting @YahooStyleCA! Follow us on Twitter and Instagram and sign up for our newsletter.