Screening Tests

  • There are many different kinds of screening tests for colorectal cancer.
  • Each has advantages and disadvantages.
  • Currently available tests can be divided into two main groups:

Tests that detect both colorectal cancers and polyps

(click on a test to get more information)


  • Uses a thin, flexible tube to directly examine the entire colon for polyps and cancer.
  • A tiny camera on the end of the tube allows the doctor to closely examine the lining for abnormal growths.
  • If polyps are found during a colonoscopy, they can be removed.

Learn more about colonoscopy

Virtual Colonoscopy

  • Uses an X-ray type of test that is similar to a CT scan.
  • Scanning machine uses X-rays and computer images to examine the inside of the abdomen and colon for polyps and cancer.
  • A small amount of air is instilled into the rectum to help identify any abnormal growths.

Learn more about virtual colonoscopy

Flexible Sigmoidoscopy

  • Like a colonoscopy, except that only the lowest portion of the colon is examined.

Learn more about flexible sigmoidoscopy

Barium Enema

  • A different type of X-ray test for finding polyps or cancers in the colon.
  • A white, chalky liquid called barium is put into the colon using a small tube.
  • Air may also be inserted to help identify any growths.

Learn more about barium enema

Tests that detect primarily cancers

(click on a test to get more information)

Fecal Occult Blood Test

  • This is sometimes also called a stool blood test.
  • The test looks for tiny amounts of blood in the stool that can’t be seen with the naked eye.
  • The test is done at home with a kit (you take samples of your stool and mail them to your doctor).

Learn more about FOBT

Stool DNA Test

  • A new test in which stool samples are collected using a special container and analyzed for DNA abnormalities associated with colorectal cancer.

Learn more about stool DNA

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