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Bowel Cancer Screening: What Tests Are Available?

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colon cancer signs

Cancer in the bowel (also known as colorectal cancer) is one of the most common cancers worldwide. There are an estimated 1.9 million new cases of colorectal cancer in 2020 alone.

Fortunately, early detection and treatment of bowel cancer can result in better outcomes, and several tests are available to help diagnose this type of cancer. In this article, we will discuss the different tests and colon scans used to find cancer in the bowel.

1. Optical Colonoscopy

An optical colonoscopy is a medical examination that uses a slender, flexible tube equipped with a light source and a small camera, referred to as a colonoscope. This instrument allows a health professional to view the inside of the rectum and the entire colon. The camera projects images onto a screen which the doctor can then check for any irregularities such as polyps or tumors.

A colonoscope can also be used to gather tiny tissue samples for examination, also known as a biopsy, or to eliminate polyps, which are small lumps that could gradually turn into cancer. This means that a colonoscopy is not only a tool for diagnosis but also for prevention.

A colonoscopy is unique among screening tests in that it gives the doctor the ability to thoroughly examine the entire colon and rectum, thereby enhancing the likelihood of identifying any irregularities. Furthermore, if the procedure uncovers a polyp or any unusual tissue, it can be immediately taken out or a biopsy can be conducted, removing the necessity for a follow-up procedure.

2. Virtual Colonoscopy

You can also consider virtual colonoscopy or CT colonography. The test involves inserting a small tube into the rectum, inflating the colon with air, and then taking X-rays to create a 3D image. The images can be examined for abnormalities or growths, and a biopsy may be taken later for further analysis if necessary.

This minimally invasive procedure uses computed tomography (CT) imaging to visualize the inside of the colon and rectum without the need for a traditional colonoscopy. Unlike a traditional colonoscopy, a virtual colonoscopy does not require sedation or a colonoscope inserted through the rectum.

Studies have found that virtual colonoscopy is as effective as traditional colonoscopy in detecting polyps that are 8 millimeters or larger, which is the size at which polyps are considered to be potentially precancerous.

The decision to undergo an optical or virtual colonoscopy will typically depend on the patient’s personal conditions, risk factors, and preferences. Both methods are efficient in identifying colon cancer and other irregularities, and each necessitates some sort of bowel preparation.

3. Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT)

This test is designed to detect small amounts of blood in the feces, which may be an early indicator of bowel cancer. The test is simple and non-invasive and involves collecting a small feces sample at home and sending it to a laboratory for analysis. Further tests may be required to confirm a diagnosis if blood is detected in the sample.

4. Flexible Sigmoidoscopy

A flexible sigmoidoscopy is similar to a colonoscopy, but it only examines the lower part of the colon. This test is less invasive than a colonoscopy and does not require sedation, but it may not detect cancer in other areas of the colon. If a growth or abnormality is found during a flexible sigmoidoscopy, a colonoscopy may be required to examine the rest of the colon.


Each test has its benefits and drawbacks, and the choice will depend on various factors, including the individual’s age, medical history, and symptoms. It is important to discuss any concerns or questions about these tests with a healthcare professional.

Moreover, a virtual colonoscopy for cancer screening is effective for detecting  colorectal cancer before it has spread. Don’t wait for symptoms to appear. Take control of your health today with a virtual colonoscopy from Craft Body Scan. Contact us to schedule an appointment and gain valuable insights into your body’s health.

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