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Colorectal Cancer Health Center

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Colorectal Cancer - Exams and Tests

If your doctor thinks you may have colorectal cancer, he or she will ask you questions about your medical history and give you a physical exam. Other tests may include:

  • A colonoscopy. Your doctor uses a lighted scope to view the inside of your entire colon. Polyps can be removed during this test. A colonoscopy is recommended when another screening test shows that you may have colorectal cancer.4
  • A sigmoidoscopy. Your doctor uses a lighted scope to view the lower part of your intestine. Doctors can also remove polyps during this test.
  • A barium enema. A whitish liquid with barium is inserted through your rectum into your intestine. The barium outlines the inside of the colon so that it can be seen on an X-ray.
  • A biopsy. A sample of tissue is taken from the inside of your intestine and examined under a microscope. A doctor called a pathologist can look at the tissue sample and see if it contains cancer.
  • A complete blood count, which is a blood test. It is used to look into symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, anemia, bruising, or weight loss.

For people who have an increased risk for colorectal cancer, regular colonoscopy is the recommended screening test. It allows your doctor to remove polyps (polypectomy) and take tissue samples at the same time.

When you are diagnosed with colorectal cancer, your doctor may order other tests to find out if the cancer has spread. These tests include:

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