In your search for colorectal cancer specialists, start with your primary care doctor. In general, you can schedule an initial appointment with your family doctor and then ask for a referral to a specialist when necessary. S/He will be able to recommend colorectal cancer specialists in your area. You could also try looking at the web sites of local hospitals. Or you could consult national organizations. If live in an area with a specialized cancer treatment center, you can consider starting there.
There are many methods for diagnosing colon cancer. Some of these procedures are also used as screening devices to detect colon cancers in the early stages, when treatment is more successful.
Carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) - A blood test that determines the presence of CEA, a tumor-marker produced by some types of cancerous tumors. This test can also be used to measure tumor growth or assess if cancer has recurred after treatment.
Colonoscopy - A colonoscope is a longer version of a sigmoidoscope, and can examine the entire colon.
Digital rectal exam - During a digital rectal exam, the doctor inserts a gloved finger into the rectum to feel for polyps or other irregularities.
Double contrast barium enema (DCBE) - Barium is a chemical that allows the bowel lining to show up on X-ray. During this procedure, also known as an irrigography, a barium solution is administered by enema; then the patient undergoes a series of X-rays.
Fecal immunochemical test (FIT) - FIT is a take-home test that detects blood proteins in stool. A small, long-handled brush is used to collect a stool sample, which is placed on a test card and sent to a lab for examination.
Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT) - A stool sample is examined for traces of blood, not visible to the naked eye. If you do see blood in your stool, contact your doctor immediately.
Genetic testing - Changes in certain genes may raise the risk of colorectal cancer. Special blood tests check for a genetic change that may increase the chance of developing colorectal cancer. Although having such a genetic change does not mean that a person is sure to develop colorectal cancer, those who have the change may want to talk with their doctor about what can be done to prevent the disease or detect it early.
Sigmoidoscopy: A tiny camera with flexible plastic tubing is inserted into the rectum, providing a view of the rectum and lower colon. This procedure can also be used to remove suspicious tissue for examination.
Virtual colonoscopy: Instead of a scope, physicians use imaging technology to view the colon. Air is pumped into the colon to expand it for better imaging. Virtual colonoscopy can be performed with computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
During diagnosis, your doctor will also stage cancer and offer information about possible long-term outcome. Learn more about the different stages of colorectal cancer and how as well as the chances of recovery, in our next section about colorectal cancer staging. Understand more about each colorectal cancer marker here.