Michelle Badash, MS
Related Media: Lower GI Endoscopy
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms, and medical and family history. The abdominal and rectal areas will be carefully examined. Your doctor may recommend different tests in order to identify abnormal growths and confirm diagnosis.
If you are having bowel or other symptoms, your doctor may conduct certain tests to identify abnormalities. These may include:
Imaging tests may be used to look for the presence of tumors. They can also help assess their size and location. Some tests use contrast material to highlight structures so images are more clear and detailed. Imaging tests may include:
virtual colonoscopy is a type of CT scan that takes detailed images of the rectum and colon. It does not require the insertion of a tube into the colon. Some of the benefits of a virtual colonoscopy include:
However, if there is any suspicious looking tissue, a colonoscopy will have to be done to remove it.
Diagnosis of colorectal cancer is confirmed with a biopsy. A biopsy is a tissue sample that is removed from the colon or rectum. After removal, the sample is examined under a microscope. This is the only way to confirm a diagnosis.
If colorectal cancer is confirmed, results from completed tests and new tests will help determine the stage of cancer. Staging is used to identify characteristics of the tumor that will help determine the prognosis and treatment plan. Factors that play a role in staging include how far the original tumor has spread, whether lymph nodes are involved, if cancer has spread to other tissue, and microscopic cellular details.
Tests that may help determine colorectal cancer stage:
The colon and rectal walls are made of up 4 layers, the innermost mucosa, the submucosa, a thicker muscle layer, and a thin serosa. The location and depth of the tumor is important in staging. Colorectal cancer is staged from 0-IV.
Colorectal cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/cid/documents/webcontent/003096-pdf.pdf. Accessed December 3, 2015.
Colorectal cancer. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated November 12, 2015. Accessed December 3, 2015.
Colorectal cancer. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/gastrointestinal-disorders/tumors-of-the-gi-tract/colorectal-cancer. Updated July 2014. Accessed December 3, 2015.
Stages of colon cancer.
National Cancer Institute
website. Available at:
http://www.cancer.gov/types/colorectal/patient/colon-treatment-pdq#section/_112. Updated July 22, 2015.
Accessed December 3, 2015.
Stages of rectal cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/types/colorectal/patient/rectal-treatment-pdq#section/_111. Updated June 30, 2015. Accessed December 3, 2015.
Last reviewed June 2016 by Mohei Abouzied, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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