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Diagnosing Colorectal Cancer

Special tests to evaluate the colon and rectum are used to detect and diagnose colorectal cancer.

  • A physical exam to assess your overall health, including a digital rectal exam (DRE) to evaluate the rectum for abnormal masses.
  • Fecal occult blood test.
  • A sigmoidoscopy to look inside the rectum and sigmoid colon for polyps or other abnormal areas that may be cancerous using a thin, lighted tube.
  • A double-contrast barium enema.
  • A colonoscopy.

To determine for sure if you have cancer, some tissue will be removed during sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy and examined under a microscope. This test is called a biopsy. Your doctor may also request a CT or PET scan to see if other body parts are affected.