SAN DIEGOMore awareness for colorectal cancer can save
lives, Today Show anchor Katie Couric said via live satellite
feed to attendees of the American Gastroenterological Association
(AGA) plenary session, held during the Digestive Disease Week
Ms. Couric, who lost her husband, Jay Monahan, to colon cancer 2
years ago, has become an activist in raising awareness of colorectal
cancer. Along with her many segments on the Today Show, she has
joined forces with Lilly Tartikoff and the Entertainment Industry
Foundation to launch the National Colorectal Cancer Research Alliance (NCCRA).
She emphasized that awareness alone is not enough. Patients need to
hear from their doctors about the need for colorectal cancer
screening. She cited a Prevention Magazine study showing that
86% of US adults are aware of colorectal cancer, and a clear majority
believe it is a disease that can be cured. Unfortunately, only
4% of adults think it is likely they will develop the disease, even
though its the nations second leading cause of cancer
deaths after lung cancer, she said.
The most clear-cut call for action, Ms. Couric said, was the
statistic from the survey that, even among members of high-risk
populationslike blacks or people age 50 and olderpatients
dont recall their doctors having a conversation with them about
the need for screening for colorectal cancer.
That doesnt necessarily mean that general practice
doctors arent talking with their patients about colorectal
cancer, she said. It does clearly show that if they are
talking with their patients about the disease, the patients
arent getting the message.
In fact, 75% said that their doctor has yet to speak with them about
colo-rectal cancer. And nearly 70% of people with symptoms of
colorectal cancer said that their doctor has not talked with them
about the disease. Among blacks, 78% said the same, as did 56% of
adults over age 50.
To try to close that gap, Ms. Couric announced a partnership between
the NCCRA and the AGA to develop education programs for general
practice physicians and primary care doctors to emphasize the need to
talk to their patients about colorectal cancer screening. The
Merck-sponsored program includes a physician education kit along with
materials from other groups.
The biggest hurdle, she added, is embarrassment. People are
embarrassed about colons and rectums. . . . Even some physicians, who
you would think have had more than enough exposure to body parts . .
. seem to be embarrassed about discussing this disease, which occurs
down there. I hope that by working together we can
convince the public and primary care physicians that we cant
afford to let people die of embarrassment.