In honor of National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month in March, former Today Show host Katie Couric accompanied comedian Jimmy Kimmel to his first colonoscopy. Kimmel turned fifty in November, the age at which average risk individuals are advised to begin screening colonoscopies. Kimmel followed the advice of his doctors and, with Couric there to cheer him on, successfully completed his colonoscopy at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. He aired some before and after footage on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, filled with jokes, as well as an interview with Katie Couric.
Katie Couric has been an advocate for colon cancer awareness since her first husband, Jay Monahan, died of the disease at the age of 42. She broadcast her own colonoscopy in March 2000 on the Today Show as a way to bring awareness to the disease. In a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in 2003, it was noted that the number of colonoscopies performed, especially among women, increased significantly over the nine months following Couric’s broadcast. The authors stated that a celebrity spokesperson for a public health program can have significant impact; they deemed the uptick in colonoscopies after her broadcast the “Katie Couric Effect.”
Couric has used her influence to advocate for colon cancer screening in ways other than accompanying Kimmel to his colonoscopy. She is also co-founder, along with philanthropist Lilly Tartikoff, of the Entertainment Industry Foundation’s National Colorectal Cancer Research Alliance. This organization aims to use donations made by members of the entertainment industry to fund research searching for causes of colon cancer, to develop more accurate tests for early detection, to implement better treatment options, and to ultimately discover a cure for colon cancer. One of the recipients of these funds is the Jay Monahan Center for Gastrointestinal Health, which opened its doors in 2004. The Center is an integrated gastroenterology practice associated with Cornell University’s Weill Medical College and New York-Presbyterian Hospital in New York City. Its mission is to prevent gastrointestinal cancers, treat already diagnosed cancers with an integrated and multidisciplinary approach, provide education for patients, and advocate for screening. Specialists at the center include geneticists, nutrition counselors, surgeons, oncologists (doctors specializing in treatment of cancer), radiologists (specialists in imaging studies), and pain management specialists. It was especially important that all of these different specialists be available in one place, as Couric has stated that going from doctor’s office to doctor’s office while trying to navigate her late husband’s care added to the overwhelming stress of the situation. All of the physicians employed with the Jay Monahan Center are faculty at Weill Cornell Medical College, where they also perform research and clinical trials. Patients are encouraged to join ongoing clinical trials at Cornell or to explore other opportunities for clinical trials throughout the United States.
March was National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and the calendar has just turned to April. Now that spring is coming, is it time for you to consider getting your first colonoscopy? Or maybe it’s time to schedule the follow up colonoscopy you know is due. Perhaps it’s time for you to encourage your loved one to get their colonoscopy, just like Katie Couric did for her friend Jimmy Kimmel. Or does your loved one needs an extra helping hand, such as someone to drive them to and from their procedure, or someone just to be there with them for their colonoscopy? Help the momentum for National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month 2018 roll on into the rest of the year. Let’s get screened!