Rectal Cancer Diagnosis

When making a rectal cancer diagnosis, the doctor will review the patient's medical history and may do a physical exam. If possible symptoms or signs of rectal cancer are present, the doctor will determine if they are the result of cancer or some other condition. Tests used to make a rectal cancer diagnosis include digital rectal exams, fecal occult blood tests (FOBT), barium enemas, and colonoscopies.

Rectal Cancer Diagnosis: An Overview

If you have any signs or symptoms of rectal cancer, your doctor must determine whether they are due to cancer or some other cause. Your doctor will ask about your personal and family medical history, and may do a physical exam.
 

Tests Used to Make a Rectal Cancer Diagnosis

To make a rectal cancer diagnosis, your doctor may perform one or more tests to look for the disease. Some of these are the same tests used for rectal cancer screening. They can include:
 
Digital Rectal Exam
A rectal exam is often part of a routine physical examination and focuses on the lower part of the rectum. The doctor or nurse inserts a lubricated, gloved finger into the rectum to feel for abnormal areas.
 
Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT)
Sometimes cancers or polyps bleed, and the FOBT can detect tiny amounts of blood in the stool. If this test detects blood, other tests (such as a colonoscopy) are needed to find the source of the blood. Other conditions, like hemorrhoids, can also cause blood in the stool.
 
Sigmoidoscopy
During a sigmoidoscopy, the doctor checks inside the rectum and lower (sigmoid) colon with a lighted tube called a sigmoidoscope. If polyps or other unusual areas are found, the doctor may remove them or take a tissue sample (biopsy) to check for cancer cells.
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Rectal Cancer Information

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