Harry Connick Jr and his wife are urging people to get colonoscopy just days after Jimmy Kimmel underwent the procedure.
The 50-year-old TV host and actor, who lost his mother to ovarian cancer at 13 years old, and Jill, a 53-year-old former model and cancer survivor, assured fans that they should not let fears of the test – or the gruesome prep – delay getting screened.
Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the US, killing more than 50,000 men and women each year, according to the CDC, yet many people skip the only test that can spot dangerous growths in the digestive system.
The Connicks join the ranks of celebrities like Katie Couric, Bella Thorne, Luke Perry, and Jimmy Kimmel who have shared their own experiences with the somewhat unglamorous test in a bid to help combat the rising rates of the disease, particularly among young people.
Harry Connick Jr and his wife Jill (pictured) are raising awareness about the importance of screening and early detection
Earlier this week, Jimmy Kimmel (pictured with Katie Couric) released a clip of his first colonoscopy
The National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable is working on an initiative to get 80 percent of Americans screened for colorectal cancer by 2018. Rates vary in US states from 76 percent in Rhode Island and Massachusetts to 59 percent in Oklahoma
‘This is a very serious issue, 50,000 people die every year from [colon cancer] and it’s the most detectable cancer and the least detected,’ Connick told Fox News.
‘So I feel it’s my duty to tell people you have to get screened,’ he added.
There are about 140,000 new cases of colorectal cancer, or a cancer of the colon or rectum, each year, according to the American Cancer Society. With 97,220 new cases of colon cancer and 43,030 new cases of rectal cancer annually.
Symptoms of the disease include abdominal pain, constipation, fatigue, unintended weight loss and blood in stool.
Connick said he and his wife, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012 and credits timely screening for her survival, are urging people to get screened as soon as they turn 50.
He said the statistics surrounding colon cancer are disconcerting since it’s very easy to detect with a test, though symptoms can be vague.
However, he admitted that he was hesitant about getting screened.
‘I was dreading it because I didn’t want to take time out of my day, I didn’t want to deal with the prep or the discomfort and I was terrified,’ Connick told Fox News. ‘And Jill would make a joke [saying], “Well, maybe we can make a double date and have like a colonoscopy double date.”‘
His announcement comes just days after Jimmy Kimmel, who turned 50 four months ago, aired on his late night show a clip of himself getting his very first colonoscopy.
Accompanying him was Katie Couric, who was the first to televise her colonoscopy in 2000, two years after her husband died from colon cancer at 42 years old. She also televised the procedure in 2001.
Last year, actor Luke Perry, 51, known for his roles on Beverly Hills, 90210 and Riverdale, opened up about his cancer scare in 2015 when doctors found precancerous growths in his colon.
Luke Perry, 51, revealed last year that he had a cancer scare when doctors found precancerous growths in his colon in 2015
Many celebrities have spoken out about the importance of receiving colonoscopies. TV host Katie Couric (left) has her colonoscopy televised in 2001 after the death of her husband from colorectal cancer. Bella Thorne (right) documented her procedure on social media in 2016
WHAT IS A COLONOSCOPY?
A colonoscopy is a test that allows doctor to look at the inner lining of the large intestine (rectum and colon).
He or she uses a thin, flexible tube called a colonoscope to look at the colon.
A small video camera is attached to the colonoscope so that the doctor can take pictures or video of the large intestine (colon).
The colonoscope can be used to look at the whole colon and the lower part of the small intestine.
Colonoscopies are mainly done to check for:
- Colorectal cancer or polyps (especially in people ages 50 and older)
- Cause of blood in the stool or rectal bleeding
- Cause of chronic diarrhea
- Cause of iron deficiency anemia
Twenty-four hours before a colonoscopy, you will stop eating solid foods and drink only clear fluids, such as water, tea, coffee, clear juices, clear broths, flavored ice pops, and gelatin (such as Jell-O).
You cannot eat any red or purple foods.
During the test, you may get a pain medicine and a sedative via IV.
The test usually takes 30 to 45 minutes, but it may take longer, depending upon what is found and what is done during the test.
Colorectal cancer signs:
- Cramping or abdominal pain
- Rectal bleeding or blood in the stool
- A change in bowel habits
- Weakness and fatigue
- Unintended weight loss
The disease usually begins as a polyp, a term to describe a growth on the inner lining on the colon or rectum, according to the American Cancer Society.
Not all polyps become cancer, but some types can develop into a malignant disease over the course of a few years. Some of the factors that can make a polyp more likely to develop into cancer is if it’s larger than one centimeter
Perry credited preventive screening for saving his life.
‘Right now, there are 23 million Americans who haven’t been screened who need to be screened,’ Perry told Fox News last year.
‘If I had waited, it could have been a whole different scenario,’ he added.
Many people over the age of 50, the recommended age to begin colonoscopies.
A 2013 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed one in three people over the age of 50 skip these screenings.
Although colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the US – estimates show that screening could prevent 60 percent of deaths due to the disease.
Two years ago, actress and singer Bella Thorne, 20, took her Twitter and Snapchat followers behind the scenes as she underwent colonoscopy.
Although the then-18-year-old didn’t reveal why she was undergoing a procedure that’s typically recommended for people over the age of 50, research has shown that younger people are dying from colon cancer.
A 2017 study led by researchers at American Cancer Society found that colon cancer and rectal cancer incidence rates have increased one to two percent each year for adults aged 20 to 39 from the mid-1990s through 2013.
Furthermore, research published in a 2017 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found adults born in 1990 may twice the risk of colon cancer and four times the risk of rectal cancer at the same age had they been born in 1950.
In fact, Connick isn’t he only one who dreaded getting a colonoscopy, a procedure where doctors use a four-foot long tube with a camera to examine the inside of the large intestine or bowel.
During Kimmel’s segment, when Couric at one point asked the comedian why many men do not get screened, he joked that it’s ‘because they go up you ass.’
Connick opted to use a less invasive procedure. He got screened using a stool DNA test called Cologuard, an alternative for those who fear the traditional procedure.
According to American Cancer Society, other less invasive tests include a double-contrast barium enema, a CT colonoscopy that uses X-rays to exam the colon, or a Flexible sigmoidoscopy, which is similar to a colonoscopy but looks at only part of the colon and rectum.
However, doctors are looking for less invasive to detect colorectal cancer early by studying new types of screening tests, such as blood tests, and improving the ones already being used.