Following her husband’s death due to colon cancer 25 years ago, Katie Couric became an advocate in the battle against the disease. Speaking with PEOPLE, the renowned journalist and businesswoman, 66, discussed her reaction to the news of actress Kirstie Alley’s passing from the same illness that claimed the life of her husband, Jay Monahan.
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“I was heartbroken to hear it, and of course wondered if she had been screened,” Couric stated. “And I think it just highlights the importance of getting screened when you’re 45, and following your doctor’s recommendations in terms of how often you should be screened.”
“I think anyone we lose before their time from a preventable disease is a tragedy. And that’s what I always wonder when I see someone who’s died of colorectal cancer. I wonder, ‘Gosh, if they had been screened or if they were screened, and did this really have to happen?’,” she continued.
Kirstie Alley, 71, Dies From Colon Cancer
To raise awareness of the illness, which is responsible for over 52,000 deaths in the U.S. every year, Couric partnered with the Cologuard Classic. The organization is a golf tournament that utilizes its platform to highlight the experiences of over 150 colon cancer patients, survivors, and caregivers. Couric’s objective is to emphasize the importance of “early detection,” and to promote the message that routine screenings can prevent a significant number of cases.
“It’s one of the few cancers that you can nip in the bud,” she stated. “And if you have a polyp, it can be removed. Even if it’s cancerous and hasn’t penetrated the colon wall and gone into the lymph nodes, it can be cured quite easily. I think there’s an over 90% cure rate if it’s detected at its early stages.”
Additionally, Couric emphasized the significance of monitoring symptoms, even before the recommended age of 45, citing her husband’s death at 42 years old.
“My husband kept working. When his hair fell out, he got a hairpiece…It’s heartbreaking. It’s like living with your heart in a vice 24/7, if someone you love has this disease. So that’s why it’s so important to raise awareness and let people know that it’s highly preventable.”