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Colorectal Cancer Health Center

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After Katie, Colon Cancer Screening Up

20% Rise in Colon Cancer Testing After Katie Couric's On-Air Colonoscopy

WebMD Health News

July 14, 2003 -- TV personality Katie Couric is a prime example of the power of celebrity to get a medical message out. A new study shows that after Couric underwent a colonoscopy on the Today show in March 2000, test rates jumped more than 20% nationwide.

The 'Katie Couric Effect' on Colon Cancer

Researchers consider Couric's impact on colon cancer screening so profound that they have called the phenomenon the 'Katie Couric Effect'.

"Considering that fewer than half of Americans currently get appropriate screening for colon cancer, the second-leading cause of cancer deaths, Ms. Couric's efforts are especially significant," says researcher Peter Cram MD, MBA, in a news release.

Screening rates stayed elevated for at least nine months, which is the amount of time the researchers tracked them following Couric's segment. The findings are in the July 14 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Higher Rate of Colon Screening Among Women

Researchers looked at the number of colonoscopies performed each month by 400 specialists in 22 states. They studies two groups of patients starting 20 months before Couric's colonoscopy and continuing until the nine months after the show aired.

In that time, the average number of colonoscopies performed each month rose from 15 to 18 -- a significant jump. Among the second group of patients, the number of colonoscopies per month rose from 1.3 per 1,000 people before the program to 1.8 afterwards.

Couric, who does not have colon cancer, became a colonoscopy crusader after her husband died from colon cancer in 1998 at age 42. During the test, the doctor looks at the entire length of the large intestine using a slim scope inserted through the rectum. Doctors use colonoscopies to look for early signs of colon cancer -- the earlier colon cancer is found, the better its chance of being cured.

More than 130,000 Americans will be diagnosed with colon cancer this year, and over 56,000 will die from the disease, according to the National Cancer Institute.

SOURCE: Archives of Internal Medicine, July 14, 2003. News Release, University of Michigan Health System.

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