People are posting about their colonoscopies on social media. Here's why experts say that's important.

A female patient discusses formalities with a female doctor holding a clipboard with holding documents.
Why it matters that regular people are also posting about getting a colonoscopy. (Getty Images) (Drazen Zigic via Getty Images)

Colonoscopies are an essential part of routine care for most adults ages 45 and older, according to Dr. Evelyn Marquez-Mello, a gastroenterologist with Kaiser Permanente. That’s because “a colonoscopy can detect and remove polyps that have the potential to become cancer," she tells Yahoo Life. "The earlier the detection of polyps or even cancers, the better the outcomes."

Still, many people are reluctant to undergo a colonoscopy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that about 21% of Americans have never been screened for colorectal cancer, while approximately 30% of U.S. adults ages 50 to 75 are not up to date with screenings.

The reasons for avoiding colonoscopies are understandable. “Many folks find themselves anxious about various aspects of the colonoscopy experience, including the prep with laxatives, the sedation procedure, feeling out of control while under sedation, potential risks like perforation and the uncertainty of what the test results might reveal,” Dr. Cedrek McFadden, a surgeon specializing in the treatment of disorders affecting the large intestine, including colorectal cancer, and a member of the Colorectal Cancer Alliance's Medical Scientific Advisory Committee, tells Yahoo Life. “Ultimately, this fear usually stems from the unknowns surrounding the procedure and its outcomes."

To help combat the fear surrounding life-saving colonoscopies, celebrities like Will Smith, Melissa Gilbert, Kristen Bell, Ryan Reynolds and Mayim Bialik have gone on social media to share their own colonoscopy experiences, from preparation through recovery. Reynolds drove home the importance of colonoscopies when he revealed that doctors removed three polyps during his procedure, which may have saved his life. McFadden says that some of his patients have told him that seeing stars like the Deadpool actor undergo colonoscopies has motivated them to schedule their own procedures, saying, "If they can do it, so can I."

But it's not just celebrities raising awareness. Ordinary people have started posting details about their colonoscopes online too. Here they explain why they were motivated to speak out and why it's important to help

'I think it's important to be open with it to encourage others'

One of Katy Schuman Clemens’s close friends was diagnosed with colon cancer at 37; when Clemens turned 45, she scheduled her first colonoscopy in that friend’s honor. Clemens tells Yahoo Life that she decided to post about her experience with the procedure on social media for two reasons. Firstly, many of her friends were also 45 at the time and due for their first colonoscopies as well. “I think it can be helpful to be reminded of things like this, because it's easy to forget,” she says.

But Clemens also posted because she wanted support from her online community. “I often need advice from my Facebook hive mind," she shares. "I was having concerns about the prep, and I knew I had friends who could help."

Although Clemens didn’t share every detail of her colonoscopy online, she did open up about her motivation for getting screened, what prep entailed and, later, how she had had two polyps removed. She posted that she was inspired to get checked by her friend who had colon cancer and what the prep was like. After the procedure, she noted that everything went well and that she had two polyps removed, which went smoothly. "[I hope] somebody saw that it was fine for me and now feels less nervous about getting a colonoscopy," she says.

And Clemens hasn't just turned to social media to raise awareness about colonoscopies; she also posted about other health issues she has faced, including getting screened for breast cancer and getting support for mental health. “I think it's important to be open to encourage others,” she says.

'This is a part of aging, and we need to keep our humor'

Julia Beck got her first colonoscopy at 55 — when it was overdue, especially considering that her father had been treated for colon cancer. She finally scheduled her screening after switching to a more attentive doctor and thinking about all of the people — “kids, parents, clients, on and on" — who relied on her.

Beck decided to share her experience online in hopes of encouraging others to schedule their colonoscopies and to spread the word. “It may be gross, [but] it is part of taking and maintaining responsibility for our health care,” she tells Yahoo Life. Beck says that she kept her colonoscopy posts “light and funny” because “this is a part of aging, and we need to keep our humor.”

When Beck’s colonoscopy was canceled because of snowy conditions after she had already downed a drink that would empty her bowels, she posted that too. “Sometimes life stinks,” she says. Beck hopes that by sharing her experience she helped spark “a conversation about the realities of aging in a relatable way.”

'I knew I had to share my story to inspire and nudge others'

Pete Christy is a sportscaster in his 50s from Lubbock, Texas. As a public figure, he believed it was his “duty” to relate his colonoscopy experience to his large social media following. “I knew I had to share my story to inspire and nudge others” to get their colonoscopies, he tells Yahoo Life.

Christy said online that he was nervous, because he knows a lot of other people are too. After his colonoscopy, Christy posted about his “really, really good experience,” noting that “the attention to detail” made the procedure as pleasant as possible. Christy especially appreciated that he was provided with warm blankets, and that the anesthesiologist played his favorite music as he was put to sleep.

He also commented how easy the colonoscopy was for him. “Before you know it, I was out. Then I woke up and I’m back in my room,” he says. He also shared that he felt “peace of mind” because he didn't need another colonoscopy for 10 years.

After seeing his posts, “a lot of people said, 'Thank you; I need to go get one,'” Christy says.

What experts say

Marquez-Mello thinks people — not just celebrities — posting about their experiences is a step in the right direction. “Raising awareness about the importance of colon cancer screening through social media is vital," she says. "This is especially important when people hear and see other individuals’ experiences that a colonoscopy is not only safe but also can save lives. This type of reassurance allows people to ease their fears and concerns."

McFadden agrees. “Since many people feel uncomfortable discussing their bathroom habits, sharing information about colonoscopies can make the procedure feel more relatable and help break the stigma surrounding it,” he tells Yahoo Life.