After turning 50 this year, Will Smith set out to do a lot of things that he’s never done before. Some things like driving in NASCAR, going around the world and conquering his fears by skydiving over the Grand Canyon. Sounds crazy right? Well, another thing that Will did this year actually could have potentially saved his life.
Will’s doctor, Dr. Ala Stanford, advised that he take a colonoscopy after turning 50. So Smith not only agreed but also documented the whole thing on video.
“How’d you do? You did alright?” a nurse asks as Smith wakes up from the anesthesia, to which Smith jokingly responds, “The question is, did you guys do alright?”
Days after the procedure, he received a call from Stanford informing him that a pre-cancerous polyp had been removed from his colon. Lab testing found that the polyp was a tubular adenoma. “95 percent of colon cancers arise from that type of polyp that was in your colon,” she said.
“Had you not known, it continues to grow and grow and grow and in African-American men in particular, the right colon is where cancer is high because it’s the biggest part,” Stanford explained. “Yours was on a side that would’ve been more advanced, you would’ve had fewer typical symptoms and by the time you presented it could’ve been full-blown and spread throughout your body.”
And she’s right. African-Americans are more likely to develop colorectal cancer at a younger age and to be at a more advanced stage when diagnosed. According to the National Cancer Institute, even when African-Americans are diagnosed with early stage disease, they have significantly worse survival rates. And, although the overall colorectal cancer incidence among people 50 and older has declined over the past decade, in large part because of screening, the NCI says incidence and mortality are highest among African-Americans.
“What that means is,” Stanford continued. “Thank you for being a compliant patient and listening when I said, ‘Will, you need to…