Colorectal cancer screening options

Legacy Cancer Institute recommends colonoscopy, because it is the only screening test that can actual prevent cancer. It does this by finding and removing polyps, which can turn into cancer. However, there are other screening options. Talk with your health care provider about the best choice for you:

  • Colonoscopy – A colonoscope, a long, slender, flexible tube with a lighted end, is inserted into the colon through the rectum. This allows the physician to look at the entire colon and to snip polyps or tissue for biopsies if anything looks suspicious. Colonoscopy is the most accurate and complete of the screening test options, and is performed with the patient under mild sedation.
  • Stool blood test – A sample of stool, often gathered with a "fecal occult blood testing" kit, is tested for any traces of blood.
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy – A sigmoidoscope, a slender, flexible tube with a lighted end, is inserted into the colon through the rectum. It allows the physician to look for blood and/or polyps in the lower portion of the colon. Polyps or suspicious tissue can be snipped for biopsy.
  • Double contrast barium enema – A chalky liquid and air are pumped into the colon through the rectum, which makes the colon expand and allows clear X-rays to be taken.
  • CT colonography (computed tomographic colonography, also know as "virtual" colonoscopy) – Air is pumped into the colon through the rectum and a special CT scan of the expanded colon is taken. This is a new test, still under study for its effectiveness.