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Colon Cancer: Tests

Cancer that forms in the tissues of the colon (the longest part of the large intestine).

PubMed Health Glossary
(Source: NIH - National Cancer Institute)

Tests for Colon Cancer

Tests that examine the colon and rectum are used to detect (find) and diagnose colon cancer.

The following tests and procedures may be used:

  • Physical exam and history: An exam of the body to check general signs of health, including checking for signs of disease, such as lumps or anything else that seems unusual. A history of the patient's health habits and past illnesses and treatments will also be taken.
  • Digital rectal exam: An exam of the rectum. The doctor or nurse inserts a lubricated, gloved finger into the rectum to feel for lumps or anything else that seems unusual.
  • Fecal occult blood test: A test to check stool (solid waste) for blood that can only be seen with a microscope. Small samples of stool are placed on special cards and returned to the doctor or laboratory for testing...

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What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

Venous Thromboembolism: Reducing the Risk of Venous Thromboembolism (Deep Vein Thrombosis and Pulmonary Embolism) in Patients Admitted to Hospital

Venous thromboembolism (VTE) is a term used to include the formation of a blood clot (a thrombus) in a vein which may dislodge from its site of origin to travel in the blood, a phenomenon called embolism. A thrombus most commonly occurs in the deep veins of the legs; this is called deep vein thrombosis. A dislodged thrombus that travels to the lungs is known as a pulmonary embolism.

Diagnostic performance of chromoendoscopy and narrow band imaging for colonic neoplasms: a meta-analysis

The review concluded that chromoendoscopy and narrow band imaging had similar diagnostic performance for assessing colonic neoplasms, but both gave unacceptably high false positive rates. These conclusions reflect the data presented, but should be interpreted cautiously due to limitations in study selection, quality assessment and analysis.

Screening for Colorectal Cancer: An Updated Systematic Review [Internet]

We conducted a systematic review of five key questions to assist the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) in updating its 2002 recommendation for colorectal cancer (CRC) screening in average-risk adults aged 50 years or older using home fecal occult blood testing (FOBT), flexible sigmoidoscopy (FS), FS and FOBT, colonoscopy, or double-contrast barium enema (DCBE). Key questions for this updated review primarily focused on evidence gaps from the previous review: 1) the accuracy (one-time test performance characteristics) and potential harms of newer CRC screening tests—fecal immunochemical tests (FIT), high-sensitivity FOBT, fecal DNA testing, and CT colonography (CTC)—as possible substitutes for currently recommended CRC screening modalities; 2) updating of evidence on the impact of CRC screening on mortality and to estimate the accuracy and harms of colonoscopy and FS in the community setting. A concurrent decision analysis done by others addressed screening program performance, and compared the life-years gained using different CRC screening tests, test intervals, and stopping ages.

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Summaries for consumers

Colon Cancer Treatment (PDQ®): Patient Version

Expert-reviewed information summary about the treatment of colon cancer.

Colorectal Cancer Prevention (PDQ®): Patient Version

Expert-reviewed information summary about factors that may influence the risk of developing of colorectal cancer and about research aimed at the prevention of this disease.

Colorectal Cancer Screening (PDQ®): Patient Version

Expert-reviewed information summary about tests used to detect or screen for colorectal cancer.

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Terms to know

Barium Enema
A procedure in which a liquid that contains barium sulfate is put through the anus into the rectum and colon. Barium sulfate is a silver-white metallic compound that helps show pictures of the colon, rectum, and anus on an x-ray.
Colon (Bowel)
The longest part of the large intestine, which is a tube-like organ connected to the small intestine at one end and the anus at the other. The colon removes water and some nutrients and electrolytes from partially digested food. The remaining material, solid waste called stool, moves through the colon to the rectum and leaves the body through the anus.
A test to look into the rectum and colon that uses a long, flexible, narrow tube with a light and tiny camera on the end. The tube is called a colonoscope.
The last several inches of the large intestine closest to the anus.
Examination of the lower colon using a sigmoidoscope, inserted into the rectum. A sigmoidoscope is a thin, tube-like instrument with a light and a lens for viewing. It may also have a tool to remove tissue to be checked under a microscope for signs of disease. Also called proctosigmoidoscopy.

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Other terms to know: See all 5
Barium Enema, Colon (Bowel), Colonoscopy

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