It was a first for actor Ryan Reynolds, who allowed a video crew to capture his colonoscopy screening on camera to raise awareness of the increase in colon cancer diagnoses among people under 50. Colorectal cancer is the third most frequently diagnosed cancer in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society.
“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 the video they shared with the public.
“Did they find Rosebud up there?” Reynolds asks a nurse when the procedure is over.
Actor Rob McElhenney, who created and starred in the long-running comedy “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” teamed up with Reynolds on the project and also underwent a videotaped colonoscopy.
“If they find a polyp, it’s either bigger than his – which is awesome – or it’s smaller than his, which means I have less of an opportunity to have cancer. Either way I win,” McElhenney told the camera while waiting for his procedure.
While joking around and poking fun at each other, Reynolds and McElhenney made it clear they were there to raise awareness about new guidelines lowering the age of colon screening from 50 to 45.
“Rob and I both, we turned 45 this year,” Reynolds said in the video. “And you know, 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’ procedure, done by CBS Chief Medical Correspondent Jonathan LaPook, led to the discovery of a small polyp in the actor’s colon.
“You did such a good prep that I was able to find an extremely subtle polyp on the right side of your colon,” LaPook told a drowsy Reynolds after the procedure.
“This was potentially life-saving for you. I’m not kidding. I’m not being overly dramatic. This is exactly why you do this,” LaPook added.
During McElhenney’s procedure, Los Angeles gastroenterologist Dr. Leo Treyzon found three very small polyps.
“They were not a big deal but certainly a good thing that we found them early and removed them,” Treyzon told the actor in recovery.
McElhenney, who acted pleased he had beaten Reynolds’ single polyp, then asked the doctor what he could do to prevent a recurrence.
There’s not yet good evidence that dietary changes can make a difference, Treyzon answered, “but what does make a difference is screening and surveillance.”
Reynolds and McElhenney are cochairs of the Welsh Football Club Wrexham AFC, a fifth-division soccer club founded in 1864 in a dying mining town in Wales. The two invested in the club to bring life back to the community. The journey inspired a docuseries on FX called “Welcome to Wrexham.”
“You know, the heart of all sports is competition, and Rob and I think we’re pretty competitive guys,” Reynolds said in the video’s introduction. “We’re so competitive, in fact, that last year Ryan and I made a bet,” McElhenney added.
The bet was that if McElhenney could learn to speak Welsh, Reynolds would undergo a public colonoscopy.
“Did we?” Reynolds replied innocently. “I don’t remember that.”
As McElhenney starts to explain the bet in Welsh, Reynolds breaks down and admits he did make the wager.
The new video, made in partnership with the Colorectal Cancer Alliance and another colon cancer awareness organization, Lead From Behind, did not show the colonoscopy procedure itself, for either Reynolds or McElhenney. The video only showed sedation and recovery.
In contrast, former “Today” host Katie Couric broadcast her entire procedure in 2000 – from prep the night before to a mildly sedated Couric watching the procedure as it unfolded.
To do a colonoscopy, a gastroenterologist snakes a flexible tube topped with a tiny camera into the rectum and throughout the colon to look for small growths called polyps that can turn cancerous.
“I have a pretty little colon,” Couric said with a sleepy chuckle as she watched the video projection from the scope inside her colon. “You didn’t put the scope in yet, did you?” asked Couric, whose husband had died from colon cancer at age 42 in 1998.
“Yes! We’re doing the examination. We’re almost done,” said her doctor Dr. Kenneth Forde, who taught for nearly 40 years at Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University. Forde died in 2019.
As Couric’s experience showed, the procedure is relativity painless, even when awake. However, like Reynolds and McElhenney, most people are more heavily sedated and rarely wake up during a colonoscopy.
Couric posted on Reynolds’ Instagram account in response to the video: “Go Ryan! (Wait! You already did!) thank you for spreading the word!”