Colon Cancer Diagnosis

If a physician suspects that a patient has colon cancer, the diagnosis can be confirmed – or ruled out – through several specialized tests. To start the diagnostic process, a physician will typically perform a medical history and physical exam. Both of these tests are usually done in the same visit. A medical history is simply a verbal discussion of a patient’s symptoms and previous health conditions; a physical exam allows the physician to check for any immediately detectable signs of cancer. The physical exam usually involves a manual assessment of a patient’s abdomen as well as a digital rectal exam, during which a physician inserts a gloved finger into the patient’s rectum to check for the presence of palpable polyps.

If the results of a patient’s medical history and physical exam suggest that colon cancer is a possible diagnosis, more advanced tests can then be performed. These include:

  • A fecal occult blood test, which is a take-home test that checks for the presence of blood in a patient’s stool (one of the primary colon cancer symptoms)
  • A fecal immunohistochemistry test, which is performed to assess a stool sample for the presence of certain proteins that are produced by cancerous cells
  • A sigmoidoscopy, in which a slim tube with a small camera at the end is inserted into a patient’s rectum and lower colon so that a physician can visually check for unusual growths
  • A colonoscopy (a slightly more extensive version of a sigmoidoscopy), in which a physician visually assesses the entire colon (rather than only the bottom portion)
  • An endoscopic ultrasound, in which an endoscope is inserted into a patient’s rectum, where it bounces sound waves off the internal organs to produce an image known as a sonogram

Anyone who is experiencing the symptoms of colon cancer can discuss a potential diagnosis with the expert oncologists at Moffitt Cancer Center. We offer a complete range of diagnostic tests and treatment services in a single location, and no referrals are required. To learn more about the tests we offer to investigate a potential colon cancer diagnosis, call 1-888-663-3488 or submit a new patient registration form online.