Inside Katie Couric's Longtime Cancer Prevention Advocacy: 'My Personal Mission'

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Katie Couric has never been one to shy away from how cancer has impacted her life — even before her own diagnosis this summer.

The former Today co-anchor, 65, who revealed Wednesday that she was diagnosed with breast cancer in June, has been working tirelessly to raise awareness and funds for cancer research for more than two decades.

"Cancer has had a huge impact on me personally, having lost my husband, Jay, in 1998 from colon cancer and my sister, Emily, two years later from pancreatic cancer," Couric previously told PEOPLE. "I think the most powerless feeling you have is not being able to help someone you love conquer this disease."

The famed journalist said the experience gave her a higher purpose to "take this unimaginable pain and loss and try to do something positive with it."

"I really wanted to do something to support the scientists for working so tirelessly to come up with better therapies and ultimately, fingers crossed, one day a cure for this insidious and cruel disease," she added.

RELATED: Katie Couric Reveals Breast Cancer Diagnosis as She Urges Others to Get Annual Mammograms

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Couric later co-founded Stand Up 2 Cancer, the National Colorectal Cancer Research Alliance and the Jay Monahan Center for Gastrointestinal Health. Nearly 15 years old, Stand Up To Cancer, an initiative created to accelerate innovative cancer research, has already brought in $746 million from fundraising efforts.

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"We have 18 Dream Teams that we've launched since 2008 where these brilliant scientists work together and they share their information, research and technology and tissue samples," Couric previously explained. "Because we've always felt two heads are better than one, ten heads are better than two. As a result, it's really transformed the way science is being conducted in this country."

Katie Couric visits the 92NY on September 12, 2022 in New York City.
Katie Couric visits the 92NY on September 12, 2022 in New York City.

Santiago Felipe/Getty

Following her husband's death, Couric famously used her nationwide platform to raise awareness of the importance of getting checked for colon cancer by having a colonoscopy on-air on Today. Years later, she took Jimmy Kimmel to get a colonoscopy on camera in 2018.

Earlier this year, Couric introduced her Mission to Screen campaign, showing people how simple getting screened for colon cancer can be and urging others to be mindful of warning signs and possible symptoms of the disease, regardless of their age.

"When this happened to Jay, I made it my personal mission to do everything I could to spare other families from going through what ours did," she says. "I made it my mission to educate people about this disease, and to destigmatize and demystify the screening."

Katie Couric speaks during an interview promoting the EPIX Original Documentary 'Under The Gun' on May 3, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.
Katie Couric speaks during an interview promoting the EPIX Original Documentary 'Under The Gun' on May 3, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.

Mike Windle/Getty Katie Couric

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Couric is often encouraging her fans to stay on top of regular screenings, stressing the importance of early detection.

While announcing her own breast cancer diagnosis, Couric urged people to get their mammograms — something she said she had to be reminded of during a visit to her gynecologist.

"Please get your annual mammogram," she wrote in a personal essay. "I was six months late this time. I shudder to think what might have happened if I had put it off longer. But just as importantly, please find out if you need additional screening."

She went on to reveal that she'd be using her experience as a teachable moment.

"During the month of October, we'll be covering every aspect of breast cancer: the latest diagnostic tools, treatments, and prevention strategies as well as sharing first-person accounts," Couric concluded. "And of course, I'll have more on what I'm learning as I navigate my own diagnosis."