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There are many tests useful for screening, diagnosing and monitoring bowel cancer:

  • Faecal occult blood (FOB) test is a test for hidden blood in the stool. In some cases, the presence of faecal occult blood may be the only warning sign.
  • A routine blood test may identify the presence of unexplained anaemia which can then be further investigated.
  • A CT or MRI scan may be used to provide images of the cancer.
  • Sigmoidoscopy is an examination of the rectum and lower colon with a rigid or flexible lighted instrument.
  • Colonoscopy is an examination of the rectum and entire colon with a lighted instrument. It may be the most useful, but it is also the most invasive.
  • A biopsy may be taken during colonoscopy which is then examined by a pathologist to determine whether a growth is cancerous or not.

Other blood tests may be used to detect the recurrence of treated bowel cancer, such as carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA), or liver function tests to help determine whether there is spread to the liver.
A healthcare practioner, for example a doctor, may perform a digital rectal examination (DRE) with a gloved finger to assess for a rectal mass.

There is also a potential future screening test still in development that looks for mutations in a specific gene (APC gene) that can be detected by analysing the DNA from patients' stool samples.

Last Review Date: November 28, 2018