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What is the most accurate test for detecting colorectal cancer?

The most accurate test to detect colorectal cancer is a colonoscopy, which entails inserting a flexible, camera-like instrument into the body to look at the inside of the colon and large intestine. It is the procedure most often used for detecting colorectal cancer because of its accuracy and reliability.

A colonoscopy also offers the opportunity to photograph, biopsy, and remove any polyps found during the procedure, which can help your doctor guide your diagnosis and treatment.
Rudolph M. Kluiber, MD
Colorectal Surgery

The most accurate way to detect colon cancer is a colonoscopy. There are other methods to review the colon such as barium enema and CT colonography, but the colonoscopy is the most sensitive as well as the most specific test. Any abnormalities found on any other test would have to be confirmed using colonoscopy.

Colonoscopy is considered the preferred screening test because it is a preventive exam: it is the only test that both finds and removes precancerous polyps during the same exam. With the other methods, if a polyp is found, that test must then be followed by a colonoscopy to remove the polyp. A person at average risk with normal colonoscopy results won’t need another exam for 10 years. Should a polyp or cancer be found, screening intervals may be more frequent.

In addition, colonoscopy:
  • Examines the entire colon, making it the most thorough method for evaluating the colon and rectum
  • Has a high detection rate for polyps, including small polyps, and ability to remove them immediately during the procedure
  • Done with intravenous sedation to assure comfort during the exam
  • Given the "Gold Standard" rating above all other screening options by: American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ASGE), American Gastroenterological Association (AGA), American College of Gastroenterology (ACG), the American Cancer Society (ACS), and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).
The best and most accurate test for diagnosing colorectal cancer is a colonoscopy. This procedure involves actually looking at the colon by way of a flexible tube with a camera attached. A specialist performs this procedure under sedation after the patient has done a thorough cleansing so that no stool gets in the way.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.