Skip main navigation.

Diagnostic Modalities

Regular colorectal cancer screening is recommended for individuals beginning at age 50 who do not have an increased risk of colon cancer. Earlier screening is recommended for people who have an increased risk of colon cancer, such as those with a family history of colon cancer. The following technologies are available at Sturdy Memorial Hospital to offer the most advanced means of diagnosing colorectal cancer for better accuracy in treatment planning and implementation.

CEA Level Test as Tumor Marker

The CEA (carcinoembryonic antigen) level test is a test that measures the level of CEA in the blood. CEA is released into the bloodstream from both cancer cells and normal cells. When found in higher than normal amounts, it can be a sign of colorectal cancer or other conditions. After a patient is diagnosed with colorectal cancer, physicians can use CEA results to help determine a prognosis. This test may also be used to help monitor a patient for recurrence of colorectal cancer.

Colonoscopy with Biopsy

The colonoscopy takes colorectal screening a step further than the sigmoidoscopy, by allowing physicians to look farther into the inner lining of the patient's large intestine, rectum, and colon. A thin, flexible tube called a colonoscope is used to look at the colon and to find ulcers, polyps, tumors, and areas of inflammation or bleeding. During a colonoscopy, tissue samples can be collected through a biopsy, and abnormal growths can be taken out. A colonoscopy can also be used as a screening test to check for cancer or precancerous growths in the colon or rectum.


CT scans, (computed tomography), MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), and PET-CT (positron emission tomography/computed tomography), are medical imaging techniques that enable physicians to diagnose diseases like colorectal cancer more quickly and to determine more precisely which stage the cancer is in - information that is invaluable in developing an effective treatment plan.

Double Contrast Barium Enema

A barium enema, or lower gastrointestinal (GI) examination, is an x-ray examination of the large intestine, which includes the colon and rectum. The test is used to help diagnose colorectal cancer and other conditions that affect the large intestine. In a double-contrast or air-contrast study, a series of x-rays of the colon and rectum are taken after the patient is given an enema, followed by an injection of air. This provides a detailed view of the inner surface of the colon, making it easier to see colon polyps, colorectal cancer, or inflammation.

Fecal Occult Blood Testing

A fecal occult blood test, which checks the presence of hidden blood in the stool, is a preliminary test used to check for colorectal cancer and other conditions, but is not used to diagnose cancer.

Flexible Sigmoidoscopy

A flexible sigmoidoscopy is a procedure that uses a small, flexible scope to examine the rectum and the lower (sigmoid) colon to investigate the cause of rectal bleeding, change in bowel habit, and rectal symptoms such as pain and diarrhea, as well as to screen for colorectal cancer.