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.

Cancer is one of the scariest words you can ever hear.

Cancer is one of the scariest words you can ever hear. Nothing will shock you more than when you get that call from the doctor. On November 4th of 2021, I got that call. Life was great! I was 43 years old and in solid health with-an amazing wife and 2 beautiful kids, ages 4 and 6. This may sound crazy, but I am a very lucky man. So lucky! Please let me explain.

My first job after graduating from college was working as a public relations and sponsor services coordinator for Chance 2 Motorsports and Dale Earnhardt INC (DEI). I was very fresh to say the least. John Andretti drove the 81 Cup Series car in a one-off race at the 2003 Brickyard 400 for DEL I had the privilege of meeting John. During the short (maybe IO-minute meeting), he gave me a few quotes for a press release and answered a few silly questions for the DEi website. He was great -so nice to me and treated me with respect. He drove a handful of races for us during 2004 and every time I would see him, he always spoke. His kindness meant a lot.

Fast forward to 2017. I was working for Camping World (CW) in Concord, NC selling
motorhomes. John really was instrumental in helping CW get involved in auto racing. During
this time, he and a great friend of mine, Josh Erickson (VP of CW), became good friends. One afternoon Josh came by the dealership and said that he and John had just had lunch. John had
told him about his colon cancer. They talked about the importance of getting a colonoscopy and being a strong advocate for your own health. Josh shared the conversation with me.

In the summer of 2021, I began experiencing some issues with bleeding and pain. It was
embarrassing and so I kept it to myself thinking that it would go away. Well it got worse, so I went to the doctor and asked about having a colonoscopy. I was told no because I was 43 years old with no immediate family history. I was told that I didn’t need one until I reached the age of 50.But he never really did anything to examine the problem. I was pretty ticked off. I had thought about what John said to Josh Erickson about being a strong advocate for your health. Then I realized that I attended church with the surgeon in our small town that performs colonoscopies! After seeing him, he agreed that I needed to have one.

The results came back that it was cancer. However, I was lucky, we had caught the cancer at an early stage. I give thanks to the power of prayer, the great doctors and nurses at MD Anderson and my amazing wife who has been to every appointment and surgery. She was my cheerleader when I would get down, and my caregiver when it got tough. She fought this battle with me, side by side. We won this battle.

Looking back at the last 7 months of this crazy rollercoaster we have been on, I realize how
lucky I am. Lucky to have met John and the impression that he left on me. Lucky that in this
small world, he and Josh Erickson were friends and that he had shared his story with Josh, which led to me fighting and not accepting no for an answer. I am thankful to John for being willing to share his story. He was the reason I went the extra step to get my colonoscopy. l f I had waited until l was 50, I would not have stood a chance to see my children graduate from high school. Thanks to John Andretti for sharing; it saved my life. Checkit4andretti will continue changing lives for many others.

In conclusion, I would like to say that sometimes we are stubborn or maybe a little scared to get checked. Colonoscopies save lives -it saved mine by catching it early. Checkit4Andretti.