Colon Cancer (cont.)
Exams and Tests
If you are having rectal bleeding or changes in your bowel movements, you will undergo tests to determine the cause of the symptoms.
- Your health care provider may insert a gloved finger into your rectum through your anus.
- This test, called a digital rectal exam, is a quick screen to make sure that any bleeding is actually coming from your rectum.
- This is not painful, but it is mildly uncomfortable for some people. It takes only a few seconds.
You may have a test called a colonoscopy.
- This is a test that allows a specialist in digestive
diseases (a gastroenterologist) to look at the inside of your colon.
- This test looks for polyps, tumors, or other abnormalities.
- Colonoscopy is an endoscopic test. This means that a thin, flexible plastic tube with a tiny camera on the end will be inserted into your colon via your anus. As the tube is advanced further into your colon, the camera sends images of the inside of your colon to a video monitor.
- Colonoscopy is an uncomfortable test for most people. You will first be given a laxative solution to drink that will clear most of the fecal matter from your bowel. You will be allowed nothing to eat before the test. Whenever possible, you will be given medication before the procedure to relax you and relieve the discomfort.
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy is
similar to colonoscopy but does not go as far into the colon. It uses a
shorter endoscope to examine the rectum, sigmoid (lower) colon, and most of the left colon.
Air-contrast barium enema is a type of x-ray that can show tumors.
- Before the x-ray is taken, a liquid is introduced
into your colon and rectum via your anus. The liquid contains barium, which
shows up solid on x-rays.
- This test highlights tumors and certain other abnormalities in the colon and rectum.
- Other types of contrast enemas are available.
- Air-contrast barium enema frequently detects
malignant tumors, but it is not as effective in detecting small tumors or those far up in your colon.
If a tumor is identified in the colon or rectum, you will probably undergo CT scan of your abdomen and a chest x-ray to make sure the disease has not spread.
Robert J Fingerote, MD, MSc, BSc
Scott H Plantz, MD, FAAEM
Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD
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