COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH)– Ryan Reynolds recently made headlines when a bet between him and a business partner turned into a potentially life-saving procedure for him, shedding light on the importance of colonoscopies.

“Colonoscopy is the gold standard for detecting colorectal neoplasia and decrease in the incidence of colorectal cancer and by doing that you increase the survival of it,” said OhioHealth Colorectal Surgery Specialist Dr. Bruce Kerner.

At 45 years old, Reynolds is the exact age at which the American Cancer Society recommends people at average risk to start regular screenings. However, the list of symptoms and predispositions that exempts people from the “average risk” category is extensive:

  • A personal history of colorectal cancer or certain types of polyps
  • A family history of colorectal cancer
  • A personal history of inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease)
  • A confirmed or suspected hereditary colorectal cancer syndrome, such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or Lynch syndrome (hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer or HNPCC)
  • A personal history of getting radiation to the abdomen (belly) or pelvic area to treat a prior cancer
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Change in bowel habits
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Weight loss

“The national guidelines start at age 45 now. It used to be 50 for a number of years, and it decreased to age 45 because there’s a higher increase in colorectal cancer in the young,” Dr. Kerner explained.

Dr. Kerner says when compared to other cancer screenings that are covered by health insurance, colonoscopy rates are lacking mostly due to the bowel prep that needs to be done the night before the procedure.

“The ages and the individuals that should be screened for breast cancer is upwards in the high 90 percentile,” he said. “When you look at screenings for colorectal cancer, it’s a lot lower than that. In the best instances, it’s somewhere between 35 and 40 percent.”

But “it’s just one day out of your life and if you have a normal screening colonoscopy, you don’t need any other screening for 10 years,” Dr. Kerner added.