Unscripted: Actor Will Smith’s Colonoscopy May Save Lives

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Will Smith at Comic Con Panel

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Actor Will Smith recently decided to have a little fun while undergoing a colonoscopy by documenting the entire experience on video for his millions of followers on social media. 

What was initially intended to be a lighthearted approach to a routine screening suddenly became serious when he learned that doctors discovered the presence of a precancerous polyp in his colon.  

Thankfully, Smith’s unexpected discovery allowed for the polyps’ safe removal, while also shedding light on the tremendous value and importance of colonoscopy to help prevent colon cancer.

Premier Health Now spoke with surgical oncologist James Ouellette, DO, of Premier Surgical Oncology to learn more about colonoscopy, as well as the impact it’s had in his own life.

Physician Heal Thyself

“As part of my practice I treat a lot of people with colorectal cancer, and we’re seeing an increasing number of younger patients being diagnosed with the disease,” says Dr. Ouellette. “It’s exciting to see someone who has such an influential voice like Will Smith give it this kind of attention, since its impact can be so much greater to draw attention to the importance of routine screenings.”

In 2018 the American Cancer Society changed its recommended guidelines to suggest that individuals should begin having screenings at age 45 rather than 50. That recommendation inspired Dr. Ouellette to get screened himself at age 47. Just like Will Smith, Dr. Ouellette’s test would yield unexpected results.

“My own colonoscopy revealed the presence of three precancerous polyps,” says Dr.  Ouellette. “Thankfully, they were all benign, but as a result, I will need to be screened more frequently in the years ahead, and other family members will need to be screened a few years before the recommended guidelines.”

These examples clearly demonstrate the crucial importance of preventive screening, Dr. Ouellette says. Not only does screening enable someone to take steps to avoid a potentially deadly disease, but it can also have an impact on the health of family members who share their genetic make-up.

As the star of his own video, Smith is playing another important role, Dr. Ouellette says. “Will Smith may be a role model for the African American community, which has higher rates of colorectal cancer.” 

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