CANCER AWARENESS: Katie Couric Broadcasts Exam
To raise public awareness about screening for colon cancer, NBC's "Today" co-host Katie Couric today made "a private matter public" as her morning news show televised her medical examination for colon cancer, the Lexington Herald-Leader reports. Although experts say it is 90% curable, colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the country, claiming nearly half of the 130,000 people diagnosed with the disease each year. Couric's husband died of colorectal cancer in 1998 at age 42. More than 80% of those diagnosed, like Couric's husband, have no family history of the disease. Women and African Americans have a greater chance of developing the disease. Testifying before the Senate Special Committee on Aging yesterday, Couric said that "colon cancer screening is a critical weapon in the fight against a disease no one needs to die from." She noted that the fatality rate is high, largely because people are uneducated about the disease. She said, "Colons. Rectums. Bowels. It's not exactly the stuff of cocktail party conversation. Removing the stigma of this disease is my first dream." Couric helped found the National Colorectal Cancer Research Alliance, which hopes to raise money for research and sponsor public service announcements about the importance of colon cancer screening (Sias, 3/7).
Awareness Is Key
While the test, called a colonoscopy, is not usually recommended for people Couric's age, 43, and those with no family history of colon cancer, Couric decided to undergo screening because "she is a single mother who has had personal experiences with the disease." According to Today spokesperson Allison Gollust, Couric took the test to inspire people to think, "If Katie Couric can do it, I can do it, too." National recommendations indicate that colorectal screening should begin at age 50. Gollust added that Couric is "not advocating that others her age have colonoscopies, only that people talk to their doctors about screening." According to a study released yesterday by the General Accounting Office, only 14% of people over age 65 underwent one of the four types of colon cancer screenings through Medicare last year (Burling, Philadelphia Inquirer, 3/7).