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Harry Smith's live colonoscopy: Good health, good sense of humor

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I’ve admired Harry Smith before for his interviewing and dancing, so I felt a responsibility to tape his live colonoscopy on The Early Show this morning. If I wanted to be there for the fun times, I should also be there for the serious ones. It turns out his procedure — hosted by Katie Couric, who televised her own colonoscopy after her husband Jay Monahan lost his battle with the disease at the age of 42, and performed by Dr. Mark Pochapin, the director of the Jay Monahan Center for Gastrointestinal Health — was as entertaining as it was informative. Watch the full 20-minute segment below. First, the zingers. Then, the facts:

Early Show weather anchor Dave Price: “By the way, Katie, a little meteorological fact: We’re expecting a full moon over Columbia Presbyterian in just a little while, so if you look in your direction, Harry, you may be able to see it.”

Couric, responding: “Hey Dave, I heard when they did your colonoscopy, they actually found your head. Is that true?”

Smith, after Katie explained that the doctor should take his time and look for flat polyps: “You know, Katie, what we like to say is they don’t always present themselves well.”

Couric: “That’s true… Go back to sleep, Harry. I’m a little worried. I told your wife Andrea if you said anything inappropriate I’d make sure to [covers his mouth].”

Smith: “She was afraid I was gonna tell too much of the truth.”

• Smith, after being told the blue-ish area we were looking at was his liver: [Waves] “Hello, liver.”

• Couric: “By the way, I just want to point out I’m wearing my splash shield because I was told I was gonna be in the splash zone….” [Smith turns to the camera and shrugs.]

• Couric, after Smith complimented her bedside manner: “Really? Thanks. So maybe, you know, if the TV thing doesn’t work out, Harry, I’d go back to medical school.”

• Smith, after Couric (who’d sung “Getting To Know You” earlier) said she felt so close to him now: “Boy, the things you see when you work as a reporter. Poor Katie’s got a little PTSD this morning.”

• Smith, expressing his gratitude to Dr. Pochapin: “Thank you so much, dude.”

Now, the facts:

• Roughly 150,000 people were diagnosed with colorectal cancer last year. In 2009, roughly 50,000 people died from the disease.

• If detected early, there’s a 92 percent cure rate. That’s why screenings, which can locate and remove pre-cancerous polyps, are essential. Dr. Pochapin and Couric recommend a screening every 10 years starting at age 50, or 40, if there’s a history of the disease in your family. (Couric noted that 75 percent of all colon cancers are a first for a family.)

• Choose an experienced doctor. Ask how long he or she scopes the colon (you want a minimum 6-minute withdrawal time, but Pochapin says he aims for at least 8 minutes). Find out how often he or she detects pre-cancerous polyps (you’re looking for a rate of 15 to 25 percent).

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