How bowel cancer is investigated

Symptoms of bowel cancer should be investigated through a combination of the following:

  • Clinical examination of abdomen (tummy) and back passage
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy procedure which will allow the consultant to examine the rectum and the lower part of the colon
  • Colonoscopy investigation will allow the consultant to examine the entire large bowel including all of the colon and the rectum
  • CT scan which may include CT colonography (also known as a virtual colonoscopy)

If an abnormality is found on examining the bowel, a biopsy is usually taken to make the diagnosis of bowel cancer. The biopsy will be examined by a histopathologist.
If the diagnosis of cancer is confirmed, further investigations are required to assess the size and extent (stage) of the cancer.
These will usually include a CT scan, and in cases of rectal cancer an  MRI scan as well.  Sometimes other investigations, including a PET scan and endoscopic ultrasound are needed. 

What are the next steps?
If you think you have this condition or any of these symptoms
you will need to seek medical advice.
For more information or to make an appointment.
Contact birmingham bowel clinic on 0845 241 7762
or email
If you have private medical care or wish
to pay to see a consultant.
Take this factsheet along to your own
GP and request a referral to one
of our consultants
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