“My mother passed on Sept. 25,” says Terrence Howard. “She had been suffering from colon cancer for six years. She was screened when she was 50, but she was already at Stage III.”
It was his mother’s illness that led Howard to the Entertainment Industry Foundation’s Stand Up to Cancer and National Colorectal Cancer Research Alliance.
“I lost my mom. And I wanted to generate awareness for cancer research and screenings for both breast and colorectal cancers,” adds Howard.
Colonoscopies hit primetime in March 2000 with the televised broadcast of Katie Couric’s colonoscopy. The “Couric effect” generated a 20% increase in colonoscopy rates nationwide. According to a Center for Disease Control report, 60.8% of adults were up-to-date on screening recommendations in 2006, compared with 53.9% in 2002.
“I recently visited with folks at an Open Doors to Health program on colon cancer in a low-income housing project in Boston,” Howard continues. “Open Doors is trying to increase colon cancer screening rates. I was able to share my family’s story. It’s particularly important to reach the African-American community as they are 20%-30% more likely to be diagnosed with colorectal cancer and 30% more likely to die from it than Anglo-Americans.”
This fall, Stand Up to Cancer and the actor are holding a fund-raiser for cancer research.
“I’m putting together a gala with Apollo Diamond Inc. where a number of diamonds will be auctioned,” Howard says. “Colon cancer is our second leading cancer killer. Detected early, it can be prevented.”
Five years ago, a man named McGowan heard Katie Couric talk about losing her husband to colon cancer. “That made me aware of it,” he says. “A month later, I started having some of the symptoms. I went to my doctor, and I was diagnosed with colon cancer.”
The Delaware resident admits that had he not seen the show, he would have “just let the symptoms go. They caught it very early. I had the surgery and an aggressive type of chemo. I have a screenings every year, and everything is good.”
Today, Stand Up to Cancer makes people more aware of the illness and its symptoms. “I was just oblivious to all that,” says McGowan. “It didn’t effect me, so I wasn’t too concerned.”