Making a rectal cancer diagnosis requires significant expertise. The symptoms of rectal cancer are often very similar to the symptoms of other, less serious conditions, and extensive testing may be required to determine the underlying cause. While it’s important for a medical professional to rule out other conditions before suspecting cancer, patients may be able to speed up the diagnostic process by turning to an oncologist who specializes in colorectal malignancies. This oncologist can determine which tests are necessary and then recommend an appropriate plan for treatment.
Several different tests may be recommended to confirm or rule out a rectal cancer diagnosis. These include:
- Endoscopic procedures – One of the most accurate ways to check for signs of rectal cancer is for an oncologist to examine the lining of the rectum for polyps. This can be performed through an endoscopic procedure, such as a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy. During these procedures, a small, lighted tube with a camera on the end is inserted into the rectum through the anus, and an oncologist reviews the images captured by the camera to look for unusual growths.
- Imaging scans – CT scans, PET-CT scans and MRIs can also be used to check for rectal cancer. However, because these scans use technologies that are located outside of a patient’s body, they produce less detailed images than endoscopic procedures. These tests are generally more useful for determining if a rectal cancer has spread.
- Biopsies – Locating an unusual growth is the first step in making a rectal cancer diagnosis, but it’s crucial to confirm whether the growth is cancerous (many colorectal polyps are benign.) To accomplish this, an oncologist must remove a suspicious lesion and send it to a lab for further testing to confirm or rule out the presence of cancer.
At Moffitt Cancer Center, we use the latest diagnostic technologies to determine the cause of a patient’s symptoms. We handle all labwork and bloodwork in our on-site laboratory facilities, allowing us to streamline the process and ensure prompt and accurate reporting of results. We can also review test results or perform follow-up procedures for individuals who have already received a rectal cancer diagnosis and are seeking a second opinion. And, we don’t stop with a diagnosis – we go above and beyond with genomic testing, molecular profiling and tumor marker tests to further individualize each patient’s treatment plan.
If you’d like to speak with an oncologist about a potential or confirmed rectal cancer diagnosis, call 1-888-663-3488 or submit a new patient registration form online. A referral is not required to schedule a consultation.