Colonoscopies save lives every day, and actor Will Smith can attest to that.
Smith, who first gained fame as the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, decided to film his colonoscopy as a vlog for his fans. At the age of 51, he was due for a colonoscopy, but he planned to create the joke-filled video just for fun.
After he woke up from the procedure, he was shocked by what his gastroenterologist discovered. He had a precancerous polyp in his colon.
"You know, when I decided I wanted to shoot this as a vlog, it was much more, 'Hey, this will be cool. This will be fun,'” Smith shared in an interview with Today.com. "I didn't realize that there would be a precancerous polyp that would get found out of it."
Colon Cancer Begins as a Precancerous Polyp
A few days later, Smith’s gastroenterologist called him and said the removed growth was a tubular adenoma containing precancerous cells. Almost all colon cancers initiate from this same type of polyp, but most cases can be prevented if all adults choose routine screening. Smith will likely need to get another colonoscopy in two to three years for monitoring. However, that is a small price to pay for colon cancer prevention.
As Smith reflected on his colonoscopy in his vlog, he tells his fans, "Everything feels normal. 2019, gotta get our health right. There's a certain amount of commitment and embarrassment involved with being healthy. You just gotta do it, man."
Guidelines for Colon Cancer Screening
The American Cancer Society’s guidelines for colon cancer screening suggest all adults at average risk for colon cancer begin colon cancer screening at age 45 instead of age 50, the age recommended by the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force. This new guideline was established in May 2018 after reviewing statistics that young onset colon cancer is on the rise in the United States. Earlier screening is important because colon cancer in young individuals tends to be aggressive and difficult to diagnose. Further, the American Cancer Society recommends African Americans get earlier screening due to an increased risk for colon cancer.
Consider these facts about colon cancer:
- Only 66 percent of people who should be screened for a colonoscopy actually have been screened.
- 25 percent of people age 50 and older have never been screened.
- 80 percent of people diagnosed with colon cancer have no family history of the disease, and most show no symptoms.
- 90 percent of colon cancers can be prevented with a colonoscopy.
Call Your Gastroenterologist
Certain risk factors may increase your risk for colon cancer, so talk to your doctor about when you should get your first colonoscopy. The next step is to call your insurance company. Many insurance plans begin coverage for colon cancer screening at age 50, so call your provider to get specific details about your plan.
If you are not under the care of a fellowship-trained gastroenterologist, click here to enter your zip code and find a specialist near you.