By Sarah Garcia
In September 2018, actor Will Smith turned 50. After a year of celebrating, he said it was “time to get serious about his health and head in for a colonoscopy.”
The actor went in for his first-ever colonoscopy in August, but just this week shared a cheeky video on YouTube chronicling the experience.
Smith begins the video by introducing his doctor and saying “I’m going to have a medical procedure tomorrow …I’m going to have a colonoscopy … I said it, colonoscopy.”
The video, which has more than 1.2 million views on YouTube, is raising awareness about the importance of cancer screenings.
Several days after the procedure, Smith had a video call with his physician, where she revealed they discovered a polyp in his cecum, the largest part of the colon. The polyp was removed and sent to the lab for testing. It turned out to be a tubular adenoma – a type of precancerous lesion.
“A polyp is a small growth of tissue on the inner lining of the large intestine wall,” says Dr. Julian Sanchez, a colorectal surgeon in the Department of Gastrointestinal Oncology at Moffitt Cancer Center. “Tubular adenomas are the most common type of these polyps and can progress to cancer if not removed in a timely manner.”
Sanchez added that colonoscopies not only detect these lesions, but removes them and eliminates the chance for the polyp to progress into cancer.
Patients who are asymptomatic and not found to have any polyps during a routine colonoscopy can wait 10 years before their next exam. However, patients who are found to have polyps should undergo more frequent exams, according to Sanchez.
“The number and size of polyps as well as the pathologic findings all contribute to the screening interval recommendations,” he said.
Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommend screenings start at age 50, Sanchez says multiple medical societies now recommend that patients with no symptoms who are at average risk begin at age 45.
“Colonoscopies remain the gold standard for cancer prevention, but other modalities such as stool testing (FIT) have also been recommended.”
Patients with other GI conditions such as previous cancer, Crohn’s Disease or ulcerative colitis, as well as those with a family history should get screened earlier and more often.
In the video, Smith’s doctor tells him he should plan on getting more frequent colonoscopies.
"We diagnosed this early," she says. "So what it means for you, in real talk: Instead of getting a screening every 10 years — which is what happens when people have a normal colonoscopy — you need to get yours done in the next two to three years."
“It’s important to me to be able to share this with people,” Smith said, “so other people can become compliant patients, to stay healthy and happy and to have all the glorious years we can possibly have.”