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NIH MedlinePlus the Magazine, Trusted Health Information from the National Institutes of Health

Special Section:
Colorectal Cancer

Preventing, Detecting, and Treating
Colorectal Cancer

Katie Couric

Katie Couric, CBS Evening News anchor and managing editor, has become a strong spokesperson for cancer education and screening since losing her husband, Jay Monahan, to colorectal cancer.
Photo: CBS News

In 1997, Katie Couric and husband Jay Monahan first learned that he had colon cancer. Monahan died nine months after that, at age 42. Since that time, Couric has become a tireless advocate for colon cancer screening, early detection, and prevention to try to spare other families the loss her family has suffered.

In March 2000, Couric helped raise public awareness of colorectal cancer by undergoing a colonoscopy that was taped and shown on NBC's The Today Show. The event was part of a week-long series to promote colon and rectal (colorectal) cancer awareness and screening. Following that, research showed that the number of colonoscopies increased by almost 20 percent nationwide. This scientifically documented response has been dubbed the "Couric effect." Cancer struck Couric's family again, when her older sister, Emily, a Virginia Democratic state senator, died of pancreatic cancer in October 2001.

Today, despite the busy life of the CBS Evening News anchor and managing editor, Couric finds time to speak out to increase colorectal cancer education, screening, and research. She co-founded the Entertainment Industry Foundation's National Colorectal Cancer Research Alliance in 2000 and helped to launch The Jay Monahan Center for Gastrointestinal Health at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center in 2004. Couric has helped to raise millions of dollars for cancer research and awareness programs.

Fast Facts

  • Cancers of the colon and rectum are often referred to together, as colorectal cancer.
  • In the United States, colorectal cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death.
  • When detected early, colorectal cancer is often curable. When pre-cancerous growths or polyps are detected and removed through screening, colorectal cancer can often be prevented.
  • Colorectal cancer occurs most commonly in individuals age 50 and older; however, younger people can also develop this disease. Screening for colorectal cancer is recommended for men and women beginning at age 50. Those with certain risk factors—such as a family history of colorectal polyps or cancer—need to talk with their doctor about getting screened at a younger age.

To Find Out More

Read More "Colorectal Cancer" Articles

Preventing, Detecting, and Treating Colorectal Cancer / A Conversation with Katie Couric / Colorectal Cancer: Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment / New Ways to Detect Colon Cancer

Spring 2009 Issue: Volume 4 Number 2 Pages 2 - 7