Patients Are Asking For The Andretti Specialty: A Colonoscopy

July 18, 2017

These doctors – these gastroenterologists – they are used to being the physicians with the hardest sell.

Spend hours cleaning out your colon. Then, come in for some prodding. It doesn’t sound fun. It doesn’t sound pretty. And it’s not always easy to convince people to get a colonoscopy – even the most health conscious of folks.

But John Andretti – in less than three months – has catapulted the colonoscopy from a maybe to a must.

After being diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer that had spread to his liver in May, the former IndyCar and NASCAR driver, has thrust the nagging procedure into the limelight.

And gastroenterologists at IU Health say what Andretti has done is invaluable.

“This type of publicity is priceless for getting people in for their colonoscopies,” says Nicholas A. Rogers, M.D., a gastroenterologist at IU Health.

Since May, Dr. Rogers has had four patients come in for a colonoscopy and specifically mention they are there because of Andretti. Of course, plenty of others are there because of Andretti, too. They just don’t say it.

The increased awareness from Andretti reminds Dr. Rogers a lot of a 2001 colonoscopy wave. That was the year “Today” show host Katie Couric had her procedure done live on air. Her husband, Jay Monahan, had died of colon cancer in 1998.

Matthew Bohm, M.D., a gastroenterologist, saw a good friend of Andretti’s come to his office for a colonoscopy after he was diagnosed.

Since the Indianapolis 500, Lee McHenry, M.D., also a gastroenterologist, said he has had two patients say they are there because of Andretti.

Doctors are certain the impact is even larger than they hear. After all, patients don’t often reveal those sorts of things when getting colonoscopies.

THE IMPACT

After being diagnosed with colon cancer, Andretti created the hashtag on Twitter that urges #CheckIt4Andretti.

Hundreds of stories have poured in of people getting colonoscopies. Andretti often ends his tweets with “Be sure to schedule your colonoscopy.” He often tweets colon cancer facts, urging “Please get screened.”

Andretti has been open with media about his health and has been on a publicity tour, of sorts, praising the positives of colonoscopies.

Last month, he revealed some positive news in his fight with Stage 4 colon cancer. Tests showed his spleen and gallbladder were cancer free.

Andretti mentioned his own health trials as he interacted with patients, some battling cancer, at a Race For Riley event last week at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health.

“Before, you could appreciate what they were going through,” Andretti said of the kids. “And now, so much more, you understand what they’re going through.”

-- By Dana Benbow, Senior Journalist at IU Health.
 Reach Benbow via email dbenbow@iuhealth.org or on Twitter @danabenbow.

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