September 14, 2022 – Actors Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney are taking on different roles: starring in a new campaign to raise awareness about the importance of screening for Colon Cancer.
Using a bit of humor to shine a light on a very serious subject, the two Hollywood stars filmed their own colonoscopies. It’s important to note that Reynolds and McElhenney are both 45, the new age at which many leading medical organizations now recommend that average-risk men have a first colonoscopy.
During the filming of Lead From Behind campaign, Reynolds found that doctors had identified and removed a polyp, or precancerous lesion, that could have turned into something more serious over time. McElhenny’s doctor found three polyps and removed them as well. The results underscore the importance of screening men at average risk of colorectal cancerincluding younger men.
Gastroenterologists applaud Reynolds and McElhenney for using their fame to show how colonoscopy can be both easy and lifesaving.
“I thought Ryan and Rob did a fantastic job,” says David A. Johnson, MD, professor of medicine and chief of gastroenterology at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, Va., who worked on the national guidelines. on colon cancer over the past 20 years. .
An important take-home message is that the colonoscopy “really is the best screening test because they both had polyps,” Johnson says. The principle of screening is to detect any potential problem before it causes cancer, he says.
Rajesh N. Keswani, MD, agrees on the importance of the campaign. “Overall, the message was incredibly effective. Everyone involved, from celebrities to clinicians, did a great job of making sure all the important points were covered. »
“In addition to saying colonoscopy is easy, they prove it by showing patients laughing and eating after the procedure,” says Keswani, director of endoscopy for Northwestern Memorial Hospital and director of quality for Northwestern Medicine Digestive Health. Center.
Reynolds, star of the “Deadpool” movies, and McElhenney, who created and starred in the TV show “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” let their comedic chops shine, says Jessica Bernica, MD, assistant professor of medicine – gastro -enterology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.
“I think this video is awesome. Not only does it share a very meaningful message about the importance of colon cancer screening, but what’s not fun watching Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney wake up from anesthesia?” she says.
Bernica praised the campaign for highlighting the younger recommended age for colonoscopy, the procedure’s ability to detect and remove precancerous polyps, and that it is a “simple, routine procedure.” not to be feared”.
“I would also point out that Ryan and Rob had excellent bowel preparations, a crucial component for an effective screening colonoscopy.”
The “couric effect”
Reynolds and McElhenny may have put their own spin on it, but they’re not the first celebrities to use their platform to raise awareness for colon cancer.
“It really goes back to when Katie Couric did this after losing her husband Jay Monahan,” Johnson said. The impact has been so dramatic on colonoscopy screening, it’s called The courage effect.
There is a large amount of data showing that similar campaigns can improve colon cancer screening rates, including when Couric televised his colonoscopy to effectively promote colon cancer screening, Keswani said.
Will Smith also shared an “incredibly detailed documentary of his journey through colonoscopy” after turning 50, Johnson says. In I vlogged my colonoscopySmith learns from his doctor that they have found a polyp in his cecum, a pouch that connects the small intestine to the colon. The video on YouTube has been viewed over 4 million times.
“Then there was Chadwick Boseman. He had colon cancer very early, at age 43, and the world grappled with this unexpected loss,” Johnson said of the Black Panther star died of the disease.
The COVID effect
The timing of the Lead From Behind campaign is also critical, Johnson says, as the COVID-19 pandemic has caused many people to delay health checkups, including colonoscopies. As a result, he says, “we’re seeing an increase in colon cancer.”
“It’s a good wake-up call for us to be proactive,” he says.
Johnson pointed out that home colon cancer tests detect when someone already has cancer. In contrast, colonoscopy is about early detection to prevent cancer, although biopsies taken during a colonoscopy can also be used for detection.
Start a conversation
The attention celebrities can bring to colon cancer can help start conversations. “This type of campaign is a great way to raise awareness and normalize an aspect of preventative health care that many people would probably be reluctant to talk about openly,” Bernica says.
Colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States and is preventable, but according to the most recent statistics from the National Institutes of Health in 2019, only about 67% of adults aged 50 to 75 had received screening. , says Bernica. “Hopefully this kind of message can be the impetus for those who have not yet been screened to do so.”
For Johnson, celebrities like Reynolds and McElhenney who step out of their normal daily lives to push an essential public health message become more than celebrities. “It really turns a star into a superstar,” he says.