Is There a Way to Prevent Colon Cancer?

Fast Facts:

  • There’s no medicine or lifestyle to completely guarantee preventing colon cancer.
  • The best way to reduce your risk of getting colon cancer is to start getting screened beginning at age 45.

In addition to getting screened, other ways to reduce your risk of getting colon cancer include: staying physically active, maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding processed foods, alcohol and tobacco products.

How can I avoid getting colon cancer?

Over 75% of people who get colon cancer have no identifiable risk factors. It is most common in people over 50, but can happen in people as young as their teens. Even people who lead very healthy lifestyles are at some risk for getting colon cancer. This is especially true if you have certain genetic conditions or if you are exposed to chemicals. Just getting older increases your risk! Even though there’s no medication or lifestyle that’s guaranteed to prevent colon cancer, there are certain things you can do to reduce your risk.

If I can’t prevent colon cancer, what’s the best way to reduce my risk?

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) states that the best way for you to reduce your overall risk of getting colon cancer is to start getting screened beginning at age 45. And then to follow up with regular screenings after that. In an earlier article, we talked about the different screening tests available and which one could be right for you. Your risk factors and preferences will play a role in which screening test you decide to use. It’s important to remember that the best test is the one you are most likely to do. Talk to your doctor and decide what’s best for you!

Are there other things I can do to reduce my risk of colon cancer?

Increasing age and genetics are related to colon cancer risk. And evidence suggests that processed food, alcohol, being overweight and using tobacco are associated with higher rates of colon cancer.You can’t control your age, race or genetics, but doctors think that making certain lifestyle choices may be able to lower your risk of developing colon cancer. They recommend that you:

  • Eat a healthy diet. People who eat fresh fruits and vegetables and avoid highly processed foods, have a lower risk of chronic disease overall. Make sure to choose whole grains rather than processed grains. Try to limit fatty cuts of meat and deli meats. Fish, poultry and lean meats are good options.
  • Maintain a normal weight. This also lowers your risk of diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.
  • Stay physically active.
  • Avoid alcohol and tobacco.

I’ve heard aspirin can prevent colon cancer. Is this true?

The US Preventive Services Task Force recommended taking daily low-dose aspirin to possibly prevent colon cancer and heart disease back in 2016. Their new guidelines in 2022 looked at the available medical evidence. They didn’t find that aspirin decreased the rate of colon cancer very much, so they withdrew that recommendation. Aspirin is a medication with side effects (like stomach upset and bleeding). All medicines should only be taken if the benefit outweighs the risks. You should definitely talk to your doctor before starting aspirin on a regular basis.

The Bottom Line:

Colon cancer is one of the most common cancers in both women and men. Even though doctors know a lot of the risk factors associated with getting colon cancer, there’s no sure-fire way to prevent someone from getting it. Even very healthy people have some risk. You can’t control all of the risk factors, but you can do things to reduce your risk. Eat a healthy diet, maintain a healthy weight, minimize alcohol use and avoid tobacco. Most importantly, start getting screened on a regular basis with a test you will use. Remember, check it for your family. Check it for someone you love. Checkit4Andretti!

CheckIt4Andretti Partnerships Have Positive Impact in 2022

2022 has been an amazing year for! John Andretti’s life and legacy continues to motivate and inspire his family, friends and fans to help those in need. Since achieving 501c3 status in March of 2021, CheckIt4Andretti has established partnerships with NorthEast Digestive Health and The Free and Charitable Clinics of North Carolina.

Through our unique model, uninsured or underinsured patients in need of screening colonoscopies are identified and pre-qualified through The Free and Charitable Clinics of NC. They are then referred to NE Digestive Health who have partnered with #CI4A to provide 10 colonoscopies as a charitable donation. NE Digestive Health then provided additional colonoscopies, paid for by the CheckIt4Andretti Charitable Foundation.

The partnership began in March 2022-Colon Cancer Awareness Month and John Andretti’s birthday month! This crucial charitable model has already positively impacted many lives. Community Care Clinic of Rowan County has been the primary source of referrals so far. Because need is great and the model is working so well, plans are being made to expand in NC and Indiana in the upcoming year.

Fundraising has been fun, creative and successful in 2022! CI4A helped kick off the month of May by forming a CheckIt4Andretti team to run the Mini Indy. The Sprout Therapeutic Riding Center included CheckIt4Andretti as a charitable recipient at their Gala on October 5. The Cars and Cigars Event with DC Prime on November 5 brought together car enthusiasts, family, friends and board members for a memorable time. Andretti Indoor Karting and Games graciously continued their round-up campaign with CheckIt4Andretti as the beneficiary and remains a mainstay of our fundraising. Of course, individual donors continue to also be a major part of our fundraising efforts.

Through our partnerships and fundraising efforts, CheckIt4Andretti has not only been able to provide colonoscopies free of charge, we’ve also begun to fund our endowment. This will ensure that John’s legacy keeps giving hope through screening colonoscopies far into the future.

So here’s a look at 2022:

March 11, 2022 Partnership agreement signed with Dr. Vinay Patel from NE Digestive Health

56 Patients referred from Free Clinic (26 not medically qualified for screening at outpatient surgery center. We are making in roads to partner with a hospital to be able to treat these cases.)

30 Total Colonoscopies Performed

10 Colonoscopies Donated by NE Digestive Health

20 Colonoscopies Paid for by CI4A

1 Cancer Detected

Moving Forward: 2023 and beyond

2022 has been an amazing year, but #CI4A is just getting started! In 2023 we resolve to raise more awareness, expand the Foundation’s reach to other regions and increase fundraising so that to save lives through colon cancer screening can be realized. That’s John’s legacy and CheckIt4Andretti’s mission.

What Causes Colon Cancer?

Most of us know someone who has battled colon cancer. It’s the third most common type of cancer in the US. And it’s the second most common cause of cancer deaths in men and women combined. Even though colon cancer happens so often, doctors still don’t know exactly what causes it.

The one thing that all types of cancer have in common is that the genetic material of the cell- the DNA- is damaged or “mutated.” Many things can damage DNA: chemicals in our food, water and air, radiation, viruses and even age. 

When the damage happens at the wrong spot, cells can grow out of control, making a mass called a tumor. Sometimes, the mutations allow the cells to escape their normal tissues and move to other parts of the body where they don’t belong. When mutated cells move to other organs or lymph nodes, it’s called “metastasis” or “mets.” 

While we don’t know what causes colon cancer, we do know there are conditions that increase a person’s risk of getting colon cancer. Knowing you have risk factors for cancer can be scary. We mentioned in an earlier article that a risk factor doesn’t cause cancer and it doesn’t mean you’ll ever get cancer. But, having one or more risk factors for colon cancer means that you have an increased risk compared to someone who doesn’t have any risk factors.

Risk factors can be looked at as things you can change and things you can’t change. For example, age, gender and family or personal history of disease can’t be changed. The older you get, the higher your risk for developing many diseases, including cancer. The risk factors you can try to change are called “lifestyle factors.”

Let’s take a look at some of the risk factors for colon cancer that you can work on changing.

  • Physical activity: A sedentary lifestyle is associated with an increased risk of colon cancer. Over 50 studies of adult Americans have looked at exercise’s effects on colon cancer. People who increase the duration, intensity or frequency of exercise can reduce their risk by 30% compared to people who don’t exercise.
  • Diet: Eating a lot of fatty, low fiber and sugary or highly processed foods like hot dogs and lunch meats can increase your risk of colon cancer. People who eat lots of veggies, fruits and whole foods, tend to have a lower risk of colon cancer.
  • Weight: People who are overweight or obese have a higher risk of getting colon cancer. They also have a higher risk of dying from colon cancer once they get it. If you’re overweight, losing just a little weight every year can reduce your risk of pre-cancerous polyps by almost 50%. Type 2 Diabetes is frequently a complication of being overweight. Type 2 Diabetes seems to be a risk factor for colon cancer. Many people who lose weight find that their Type 2 Diabetes goes into remission. So losing a few pounds may help reduce two different risk factors.
  • Alcohol use: People who drink a moderate (1 drink on most nights) or more, have a 20%-50% increased risk of developing colon cancer compared to people who don’t drink.
  • Tobacco use: Tobacco use and smoking is one of the major risk factors for developing colon cancer. The chemicals in tobacco are known to damage DNA in many types of cells. Quitting tobacco can reduce your risk for colon cancer and other diseases as well.

The Bottom Line:

Doctors don’t know exactly what causes colon cancer in individual patients. They do know that colon cancer, like all other cancers, can happen when DNA gets damaged and allows cells to grow out of control. They also know that certain risk factors increase our risk of developing colon cancer. Some of the risk factors are because of lifestyle choices we make and they can be changed. If you have risk factors, it’s especially important to get checked out with a screening test at the earliest possible time. Check it for someone you love. #CheckIt4Andretti.

Fast Facts:

  • Doctors can’t say exactly what causes colon cancer to happen in most people
  • Colon cancer develops when DNA in the cells of the large intestine are damaged
  • You can’t change your family history or age, but you may be able to change some of your “lifestyle” risk factors and possibly reduce your chance of developing colon cancer.
  • If you have risk factors, make sure to get checked for colon cancer at the right time. Screening tests such as colonoscopy can help find polyps and cancers early.

CheckIt4Andretti Charitable Foundation Partnership with NE Digestive Health & Free and Charitable Clinics of NC: How the Partnership Works

March 12, 2022 would have been John Andretti’s 59th Birthday. March also happens to be Colon Cancer Awareness month. To honor John’s legacy, his family started the CheckIt4Andretti Charitable Foundation forging a unique partnership model with NE Digestive Health in Concord, NC and the Free and Charitable Clinics of North Carolina.

The partnership provides a seamless way to identify at-risk, uninsured or underinsured patients in need of colon cancer screening and provide them with the care they need at no cost. The way the partnership works seems simple, but it takes a lot of dedicated, hard work by the  Free Clinic staff and the generous support of the doctors at NE Digestive Health.

First, the patients at the Free Clinic are pre-screened. They must meet insurance and income requirements to begin with. The Clinic doctors and nurses then determine who qualifies for colonoscopy based on age and risk factors.  The Clinic refers patients who meet their guidelines to NE Digestive Health.

Next, the doctors and nurses at NE Digestive review the patient records and physical exam to determine if a colonoscopy can be safely performed at their outpatient facility. Once a patient is medically approved, they are scheduled for their procedure. Sometimes, polyps are found and need to be removed. Other times, a biopsy might be needed. The doctors at NE Digestive Health are able to handle whatever is needed during the colonoscopy. Once the pathology report comes back, they let the patient know if everything is ok or if follow-up is needed.

Every patient is treated with the same care and dignity regardless of whether they come from a private doctor’s office or from the Free Clinics. They are treated by the same physicians and use the same state-of-the-art facilities.

CheckIt4Andretti and NE Digestive Health negotiated a partnership agreement that benefits the underserved residents of the area. NE Digestive Health will perform 10 colonoscopies free of charge each year. After the initial 10 colonoscopies, NE Digestive will provide colonoscopies to patients referred by the Free Clinics.

That’s where donors and CheckIt4Andretti make a huge impact. CheckIt4Andretti picks up the bill for the negotiated price. The patient doesn’t have to worry about a costly medical expense. They can focus on getting their procedure and getting well.

Since the first CheckIt4Andretti sponsored colonoscopy was done in March 2022, more than 30 patients have been served, dozens of polyps have been removed and many lives have been touched.

Dr. Vinay Patel of NE Digestive Health thanked the Foundation saying that it “provided an opportunity to save lives and honor John’s legacy at the same time.” Krista Woolly, Executive Director of Community Care Clinic of Rowan County, also expressed appreciation in an email to Nancy Andretti stating, “I personally know that several of our patients have been SO VERY grateful for this opportunity because of colon cancer that runs in their families.”

Nancy, Jarett, Olivia and Amelia, as well as the entire CheckIt4Andretti Board of Directors, are grateful for the hard work of Dr. Patel, Krista Woolly and all their staff. Their dedication is helping to ensure that John’s legacy lives on.

What Age are You Most Likely to Get Colon Cancer?

A lot of people want to know “the most likely age” a disease might happen. Getting screened, eating healthy, exercising and minimizing alcohol and tobacco can take some of the joy out of life. Especially if a disease might not strike until later in life. You might think of colon cancer as a disease of older people who have a lot of risk factors. But the truth is colon cancer can happen to anyone, even really young people.

What age can you get colon cancer?

The average age of being diagnosed with colon cancer is 68 for men and 72 for women. The “average age” is a little misleading and doesn’t tell the whole story. The average age at diagnosis has been getting younger for the past couple of decades, and doctors aren’t sure why. It could be because screening in older people is catching polyps before they have a chance to turn into cancer. Or it could be that there are more chemicals and toxins in the environment. Or maybe it’s because we’re more sedentary and eating more processed food at an earlier age.

Most cases of colon cancer still happens in people over 50 years old, but about 12% of cases are diagnosed in people under 50. Young men and women in their 20’s are diagnosed with colon cancer every year. As a matter of fact, the rate of people under 50 getting colon cancer has gone up about 2% a year since 1995. The rate for people over 50 has actually gone down about 3% a year during that same time. Screening tests like colonoscopies are thought to be one of the biggest reasons for the drop in those over 50.

So, who is most likely to get colon cancer?

Anyone can get colon cancer, but some people are more likely to get it than others. In an earlier blog post we talked about risk factors for getting colon cancer. It’s worth mentioning them again here, because they help us understand who is most likely to get colon cancer. A “risk factor” doesn’t cause cancer all by itself. Risk factors just mean that you have a greater chance of developing a disease than someone who doesn’t have them. Some people have lots of risk factors and never get cancer. Other people might not have any risk factors at all and still get that terrible diagnosis.

You have a greater chance of getting colon cancer if:

  • You are male: Men have about 30% higher rate of colon cancer than women.
  • You are Black or Native American/Alaskan: White Americans are about 30% less likely to be diagnosed with colon cancer than Black Americans. 
  • You are over 50 years old: The older you are, the higher your risk.
  • You have a lifestyle that puts you at risk; Obesity, smoking and alcohol overuse are all risk factors. So is being sedentary and eating a highly processed diet.
  • You have particular genetic syndromes: If colon cancer “runs in your family,” you may familial adenomatous polyposis or Lynch Syndrome. These are genetic conditions that are passed down through generations.
  • You have certain types of inflammatory bowel disease like Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis.

Can I still get colon cancer if I don’t have any symptoms or risk factors?

You might not be overweight. You may have never smoked or drank alcohol. You might even eat 5-7 servings of vegetables and walk 2 miles every day. But you could still get colon cancer. Risk factors are only part of the puzzle of who gets this disease. Genetics are part and so is the environment. Every day that you get older, your risk goes up a little bit, even if you try to do everything “right.”

It’s important to remember that many people don’t have any symptoms at all  in the early stages of colon cancer. In order to catch colon cancer before it gets too far along, you should start getting screened at age 45 according to national guidelines. If you have other risk factors, talk to your doctor about getting screened earlier.

No matter what your age is or whether you have risk factors, you need to talk to your doctor right away if you have any symptoms that go along with colon cancer. Things like blood in your stool, bloating, weight loss, abdominal pain or feelings of fullness in your belly might be nothing…but they could also be the first clues of colon cancer.

You can get an idea of your individual risk by using the National Cancer Institute’s Colorectal Cancer Risk Assessment Calculator. Just answer a few questions online and you can print out the assessment to take to your doctor. It’s an easy way to start a difficult discussion.

The bottom line:

It’s impossible to predict at what age someone will develop colon cancer, or whether they’ll ever get it. Some people have lots of risk factors and never develop the disease. The average age is getting younger for men and women, and you’re more at risk as you get older, especially if you’re male, Black or have other risk factors. Regular screening beginning at age 45, and up until age 75, is recommended for all Americans. Check it as soon as you turn 45. Check it for someone you love. Check it for yourself. #Checkit4Andretti.

Fast Facts:

  • The average age of being diagnosed with colon cancer is getting younger.
  • You’ll have a better chance of surviving colon cancer if you catch it early, before it spreads to other parts of the body.
  • Since it is impossible to know for sure who will get colon cancer, every American between the ages of 45-75 should be screened regularly.

What is the Best Screening Test for Colon Cancer?

Every American between the ages of 45-75 should be screened for colon cancer. In the last post we talked about how screening tests are used to check for signs of colon cancer before you have any symptoms. Now we’re going to look at the different types of screening tests and get an idea of which one might be right for you.

What are the different types of screening tests for colon cancer?

Did you know that colon cancer is the third most common cancer in the US? Because it’s so common, a lot of research has been put into catching colon cancer early using screening tests. All this research has led to different ways of finding signs of cancer before it becomes too advanced. The earlier you find and treat cancer, the better your chances of beating it.

There are simple tests that detect blood or cancer DNA in the bowel movements. Radiologists can do special scans to take pictures of the bowels to check for tumors. Some types of tests allow doctors to look directly at the inside of the colon. These tests allow them to see any abnormal areas and take a biopsy at the same time.
Let’s take a closer look at how each of these tests are done, how often they need to be repeated and what information we can get from them.

Stool tests:

Colon cancer is sneaky in its early stages. You might not feel bad. You might not even notice anything different about your bowel movements. But there can be subtle changes that stool tests can pick up. 

There are 3 different types of fecal tests that look for changes in your stool.

  • Fecal occult blood test (gFOBT): Occult means “hidden” in this case. This test checks for blood in your stool that can’t be seen with the naked eye (and maybe hard to find even with a microscope!) It is one of the oldest tests, but it’s super-easy to do and very inexpensive. The doctor can do it right in the office when you have your annual physical exam. Or they can send you home with a special card and swab. After a bowel movement you just swab your stool and smear it on the filter paper on the card. You seal the card up and send it back to your doctor. 

In the doctor’s office, a few drops of a liquid containing a chemical called “guaiac” are placed on the filter. If there is no color change, you simply repeat the test every year.  If the filter turns blue, it means blood is in your stool. This doesn’t mean you have cancer, but it does mean you need to find out why there’s blood in your stool. Your doctor will probably recommend that you get a colonoscopy.

It’s important not to take NSAIDs, eat red meat or have citrus/vitamin C for a few days before the test because they can cause a false positive result.

  • FIT test: FIT means “fecal immunochemical test.” This test is done pretty much the same way as the gFBOT. Instead of using guaiac, it uses antibodies to look for blood in the stool. FIT test is a more specific test for blood. You don’t have to worry about your medications or what you eat beforehand. If it is abnormal, you will need to follow-up with a colonoscopy right away. FIT test should be done every year.
  • FIT-DNA test: FIT-DNA is two tests in one. It checks for hidden blood, just like the FIT test. And it also detects the abnormal DNA of cancer cells. It is different from FIT and gFOBT because you’ll get your kit in the mail. Next, you’ll collect your entire bowel movement in the special container and send it back to the lab. 

If any abnormal DNA or blood is found, you’ll need a colonoscopy to make sure there’s no signs of cancer in your colon. FIT-DNA only needs to be done every 3 years if the results are normal.

Radiology test:

A CT colonography or “virtual colonoscopy” is a test done by the radiologist. It uses X-rays and a CT to create a 3-dimensional picture of your colon and rectum. It is a very sensitive test that can detect small abnormalities such as tumors or polyps. 

Most people don’t need any sedation for a virtual colonoscopy. The test doesn’t require instruments going into the rectum (it’s non-invasive). But, the colon and rectum have to be cleaned out ahead of time using a “bowel prep.” This means that the day before the scan, you will take some medications that cause your bowels to completely empty out. If stool is still in your colon, it can make it hard for the radiologist to read the scans correctly.

On the day of the test, the radiologist will have you drink “contrast solution” which will help show the lining of the gut on the X-rays. A small tube will be used to place some air into your rectum and colon. Finally, you’ll be asked to hold your breath for a few seconds at a time while the scan is done. You might feel a little bloated for a day or two,until all the air is passed.

A virtual colonoscopy should be done every 5 years if no abnormalities are found. If any area is concerning, you should get a colonoscopy right away.

Direct visualization test (using a camera):

The virtual colonoscopy gives doctors a lot of information, but it can miss some smaller abnormalities. Flexible sigmoidoscopy and colonoscopy are two tests that use cameras to look at the inside of the gut.

Flexible Sigmoidoscopy

Just like with the virtual colonoscopy, you will need to empty your bowels before the procedure. You and your doctor will decide whether you need sedation. Many people don’t want to be sedated. The doctor will have you lie on your side. They’ll lubricate your rectum and insert a small tube. This will allow them to insert some air and a camera. If they see anything abnormal like a polyp, they can go ahead and take a biopsy (cut it out for tests.) A small amount of blood or cramping and bloating can happen after a flexible sigmoidoscopy.

A Flexible sigmoidoscopy only looks at the very last part of the colon and rectum. If you have a tumor or polyp at the beginning of the colon, it won’t be seen. Flexible sigmoidoscopy isn’t usually recommended for screening in the US.

If you and your doctor do decide to go this route, you’ll need to repeat it every five years. If you combine this test with a FIT every year (or FIT-DNA), you’ll only need to do it every 10 years.


Although it’s the most complex test, colonoscopy is the gold-standard of screening tests for colon cancer. Colonoscopy requires that you have a full bowel prep the day before. You will need to take medications that cause your bowels to empty completely. A colonoscopy is done by a gastroenterologist (GI doctor). It can be done in a special office, a surgery center or even in the hospital. You will almost always get to go home the same day.

Most people have heavy sedation or go to sleep for this procedure. The doctor will have you lie on your side, lubricate your rectum and insert the tube for the air, camera and biopsy equipment. In a colonoscopy, the doctor looks at the inside of the entire colon from the rectum all the way back to the cecum.

The gastroenterologist will be looking for things like polyps. Polyps are finger-like pieces of tissue that stick out from the lining of the colon. A polyp might not be cancer, but the only way to know for sure is to cut it out and look at it under a microscope. The doctor will also be looking for ulcers, areas of redness or larger masses. If they see anything that doesn’t look normal, they will take a biopsy to make sure that cancer isn’t quietly growing inside you.

The colonoscopy usually doesn’t take more than 60 minutes to do. But you’ll need an hour or two to fully wake up before you can go home. You might have a little bleeding, some cramping or bloating, but you should be back to normal the same day.

If your colonoscopy is normal and you don’t have an increased risk for colon cancer, then you only need to get a colonoscopy every 10 years.

The Bottom Line

The earlier you catch colon cancer, the more likely you are to beat it. The best way to catch colon cancer early is by doing a screening test on a regular basis, before the cancer gets far enough along to cause symptoms. There are many screening tests available. The best test for you depends on your risk factors and which test you will reliably do on schedule. Get checked starting at age 45. Check it for you. Check it for someone you love. CheckIt4Andretti.

Fast Facts:

  • Screening tests check for signs of colon cancer before you have any symptoms
  • There are many different screening tests that you can choose from including colonoscopy, stool tests and radiology exams
  • The best screening test for you will depend on your risk factors, but it’s also the one you are most likely to do!

When Should I Get Screened For Colon Cancer?

There is a lot of confusion about when is the right age to get screened for colon cancer. As a matter of fact, even the experts differed on the best age to recommend screening. That’s why they turned to the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF). This is a group of scientists and doctors who look at all the available information and decide how to best prevent disease in the US.

What is a screening test?

First of all, we need to define what a “screening test” is. A screening test is used by doctors to look for disease before you have any symptoms. The idea is that if you catch it before it is far enough along to cause symptoms, you’ll have a better chance of curing the disease- or maybe even prevent the disease from happening. If you have any symptoms or are at increased risk for a disease, then you need to have a diagnostic test. 

Get screened starting at age 45

In 2021, USPSTF recommended that everyone aged 45-75 should get a screening test for colon cancer. They found that when screening was done in people over 50 years old (the age they used to recommend), the risk of dying from colon cancer actually went down. At the same time, they found that the rate of colon cancer was increasing in people younger than 50 years old.

What if you are older than 75? 

Depending on your health and whether you’ve had an abnormal test in the past, you might still want to get screened on a regular basis. If you’ve had an abnormal screening test in the past or if you’ve had colon cancer, your doctor will probably recommend that you continue getting tested regularly. Sometimes people decide that they don’t want to continue with the screenings after 75, especially if they have other serious health concerns. You can talk to your healthcare provider and they will help you figure out whether to continue screening or not.

After the age of 86, there doesn’t seem to be any benefit to getting screened. You can completely stop testing at that age. The best news is that you’ve outlived most of the people in the country!

What if I have risk factors for colon cancer?

Things that can increase your risk for colon cancer include: 

  • Age: older age = greater risk
  • Race: increased risk in Black Americans, Native Americans and Alaskan Natives
  • Family history of Lynch syndrome, familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP), polyps or colon cancer
  • Personal history of inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis
  • Other risk factors such as obesity, diabetes, smoking, and excessive alcohol use.

If you have any of these risk factors, you should talk to your doctor about getting screened before 45 years of age. People with a family history of some genetic disorders like FAP or Lynch syndrome should start getting tested as early as 20 years of age. Make sure you tell your healthcare provider about any family history of cancer, especially colon cancer.

Follow this link to download a handy chart to track your family history. Print it out, then talk to your family members. Once you have it filled out, share it with your family members so that they are aware of your family’s risk. You can share it with your doctor, too.

What if I have symptoms of colon cancer?

Many people who are diagnosed with colon cancer have no symptoms at all. If you notice any of these symptoms, you should see your healthcare provider right away.

  • Change in bowel habits including diarrhea, constipation, or narrowing of the stool, that lasts for more than a few days
  • Feeling like you need to have a bowel movement which is not relieved by having one
  • Bright red blood in your stool
  • Darker than usual stools 
  • Cramping or abdominal pain
  • Weakness or constant fatigue
  • Weight loss without dieting

There are a lot of different ways to get screened for colon cancer. These include several different stool tests, CT scans and even colonoscopy. How often you need to repeat the screening test depends on which one you use. We’ll talk about the different test options and how often they need to be repeated in another blog post.

The bottom line is that colon cancer is one of the top causes of cancer deaths in the US. Screening has been shown to reduce the risk of dying from this common disease. Screening is recommended starting at age 45 for those people at average risk. So make sure you check it for someone you love. CheckIt4Andretti.

Fast Facts:

  • Colon cancer screening saves lives!
  • Every American between 45-75 years of age should be screened for colon cancer, even if you don’t have any risk factors.
  • People between 76-85 years old should talk to their doctor about whether screening would be helpful.
  • People who are younger than 45 who have symptoms or risk factors should talk to their doctor to decide the best course of action.

Welcome to CheckIt4Andretti Blog

When John Andretti was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2017 at the age of 53, he was healthy and active. John had a lot of questions so he turned to experts for answers. John fought valiantly. He went through surgeries, chemotherapy and even tried experimental treatments. But because of the late stage of his cancer when it was diagnosed, John lost the battle in 2020.

John’s wife, Nancy, along with their children, started the CheckIt4Andretti Foundation to make sure everyone could have access to life-saving screening and health information before it’s too late. The entire Andretti family and organization have made it their mission to raise awareness and improve access so that everyone has the best chance of preventing and surviving colon cancer.

In addition to providing colonoscopies to those who can’t afford them, we are here to answer common questions about colon cancer, colon cancer screening and especially questions about colonoscopies. We believe that you are your own best health-care advocate. 

Colon cancer can be confusing! Our blog will try to simplify the research, guidelines and recommendations that are always changing. Our articles are meant to give you up-to-date facts about colon cancer in easy-to-understand terms.

Some of the questions we will tackle include:

  • What age should I get screened for colon cancer?
  • Who should get screened?
  • What are the different choices for screening? Is one test better than the others?
  • What happens if my screening test is abnormal?
  • What are the treatment options if I’m diagnosed with colon cancer?

This blog will offer links to expert websites where you can get more in-depth information on the topics we cover. You’ll also be able to find links to helpful videos and other resources. We hope you check back here often to see what’s new. Remember to check it for someone you love. Check it for yourself. Checkit4Andretti.

Nancy Andretti and Dr. Vinay Patel of Northeast Digestive

Press Release: Northeast Digestive Health Center

Nancy Andretti and Dr. Vinay Patel

CheckIt4Andretti, Northeast Digestive rev up colorectal cancer battle with plan to give diagnostic screenings to high-risk, low-income group

Efforts of racing legend’s foundation improve chances of early detection, survival

CONCORD, N.C. (March 15, 2022) – Since his tragic death from colorectal cancer in January 2020, John Andretti’s family has been honoring the racing legend’s legacy both on and off the track.

As son Jarett Andretti prepares to compete in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts this week, the CheckIt4Andretti Charitable Foundation is revving up efforts to promote early detection of colorectal cancer, the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S.

Through a new partnership finalized last week between the foundation and Northeast Digestive Health Center in Concord, selected low-income patients from a Salisbury medical clinic that serves the uninsured and underinsured will receive colonoscopies free of charge.

“The potential to save lives through early detection of colorectal cancer is enormous,” said Nancy Andretti, founder and president of CheckIt4Andretti. “We are grateful to Northeast Digestive Health Center for helping CheckIt4Andretti fulfill our mission of making these screenings available to those who need but can’t afford them.”

Nancy Andretti, Jarett’s mother and John’s wife of 32 years, established the foundation following John’s death to promote the importance of early detection and provide free screenings for high-risk, low-income people who are uninsured, underinsured or too young to qualify for insurance coverage.

She forged the partnership with Northeast Digestive Health Center through her relationship with Dr. Vinay Patel, her own gastroenterologist at the center. The foundation is working to secure additional partnerships in North Carolina and Indiana, where Jarett lives and where the family’s racing heritage has deep roots.

“CheckIt4Andretti has found the perfect focus for its mission because low-income individuals are much less likely to have access to diagnostic screenings,” Patel said. “Northeast Digestive Health Center thanks Nancy Andretti and the foundation for the opportunity to save lives and honor John’s legacy at the same time.”

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and is also the birth month of John Andretti, who would have turned 59 March 12. More than 50,000 Americans are expected to die this year from colorectal cancer, which trails only lung cancer as the deadliest form of cancer.

John Andretti won races in open-wheel, sports car and stock car series in a career that spanned 25 years. Andretti didn’t receive his first colonoscopy until the age of 52, when his cancer was diagnosed.

Based on new guidance from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, the American Cancer Society in 2021 lowered its recommended age to begin regular colorectal cancer screenings to 45 years old from 50 previously.

“I hope my father will be remembered for using his own diagnosis to shine a spotlight on the importance of early detection,” said Jarett Andretti. “And I hope other providers will follow the compassionate lead of Dr. Patel and his team at Northeast Digestive Health Center to help us expand access to potentially life-saving cancer checks.”

CheckIt4Andretti worked with the North Carolina Association of Free and Charitable Clinics to identify high-risk, low-income patients served by one of the organization’s member clinics – the Community Care Clinic of Rowan County in Salisbury – who will be receiving the screening procedure.

“Free and charitable clinics are committed to expanding access to quality health care for the uninsured,” said Randy Jordan, CEO of the North Carolina Association of Free and Charitable Clinics. “We are indebted to partners like CheckIt4Andretti and Northeast Digestive Health Center who help make it happen where the rubber meets the road.”

The association hopes to work with CheckIt4Andretti to find additional health care providers to make more colorectal screenings available to patients of its member clinics across the state, Jordan said.

The association’s 73 member clinics deliver a full range of services, including primary and specialty medical care, dental care, behavioral health services, pharmacy service, and hospital referrals to nearly 80,000 uninsured or underinsured people in 88 North Carolina counties, in most cases at no cost to the patient.

About The CheckIt4Andretti Charitable Foundation Inc.
The CheckIt4Andretti Charitable Foundation’s mission is to save lives by increasing awareness of the importance of screenings in the prevention and early detection of colorectal cancer, and by providing funding to high risk, low-income patients who are uninsured, underinsured, or too young for insurance to cover the cost of screening. The foundation was established in 2020 in memory of motorsports figure John Andretti, who died of colon cancer Jan. 30, 2020. For more information, please visit

About Northeast Digestive Health Center
Northeast Digestive Health Center, based in Concord, North Carolina, is a leader in the digestive health field, providing a full range of services and procedures to diagnose and treat a variety of digestive conditions. With three office locations and four endoscopy centers and a staff of 11 board-certified gastroenterologists and six physician assistants, Northeast Digestive Health Center offers comprehensive and cost-effective care for individuals with conditions affecting the digestive tract, liver, pancreas and biliary tree. For more information, please visit

About North Carolina Association of Free and Charitable Clinics
The North Carolina Association of Free and Charitable Clinics supports 73 member clinics in expanding access to health care, reducing health disparities and improving the health of uninsured and underinsured individuals. Member clinics are a vital part of North Carolina’s safety net, providing care for 80,000 patients in 88 counties, including primary and specialty medical care; dental care; pharmacy services; optometry; behavioral health care; lab tests and hospital referrals. The association supports member clinics with education, advocacy, research, funding and collaboration, and promotes quality health care for all North Carolinians. Learn more at


Media: David Coburn at Coburn Communications,, 704.408.4276