Colon Cancer Diagnosis

dr jeffrey ferris colon cancer doctor at medstar franklin square

P. Jeffrey Ferris, MD, Colon and Rectal Surgeon

At MedStar Health Cancer Network cancer centers in Baltimore, we understand how difficult a colon cancer diagnosis can be for you or your loved one. If you’ve been diagnosed with colon and rectal cancer, you can rely on our devoted colon cancer teams, from treatment to follow-up care. Our knowledgeable doctors and nurses will answer any questions you may have during the colon cancer diagnosis and will be with you every step of the way.

Colon Cancer Diagnosis

Our goal at MedStar Health Baltimore Cancer Network is to complete the colon cancer diagnostic phase promptly so that you can begin treatment as soon as possible. We use the most advanced diagnostic technology  to diagnose and stage your colon cancer because we know that the more accurate your diagnosis, the more precise your treatment regimen will be.

Oncologists believe many cases of colon cancer can be cured, as long as they are diagnosed early. Unfortunately, most patients don't schedule regular preventive examinations and only seek medical attention when they have symptoms. As a result, colon cancer is usually diagnosed after it has left the bowel lining and progressed beyond the site of origin.

At MedStar Health cancer centers, we advise our patients to get tested at a younger age and more frequently if they have certain risk factors. These include a strong family history of colon cancer or polyps, a relative with a genetic colon cancer syndrome or a personal history of colon cancer, adenomatous polyps  or inflammatory bowel disease.

Colon Cancer Diagnostic Tests

Doctors at the MedStar Health Cancer Network use a variety of tests to diagnose colon cancer and determine if it has spread (metastasized) to other parts of your body. These tests may also help your doctor determine which treatment will be most effective.

In most cases, a biopsy is the only way to make a definitive colon cancer diagnosis. Your MedStar doctor will consider several factors when deciding which diagnostic test is right for you, such as your age, medical history, type of cancer suspected, symptoms and previous colon cancer tests.

  • Colonoscopy - A colonoscopy allows your MedStar doctor to see inside your rectum and colon to find polyps or other signs of colon cancer.
  • Biopsy - In a biopsy, your MedStar doctor will remove a small amount of tissue from your rectum or colon and examine it under a microscope to determine if cancer is present. Other tests can be used to suggest whether or not cancer is present, but only a biopsy can definitively diagnose colon cancer.
  • Molecular testing - Your MedStar doctor may use molecular testing to determine if your colon cancer treatment options include targeted therapy.
  • Computed tomography (CT or CAT) scan - A CT scan may be used to help your MedStar Health Cancer Network doctor determine if colon cancer has spread to other parts of your body.

In addition to these tests, your doctor may use a blood test, MRI, ultrasound or other tests to help diagnose colon cancer.

Once your diagnostic tests are complete, your doctor will review the results. If the tests show that colon cancer is present, the results of your tests will help your doctor determine the stage of cancer and which treatments options will be most effective.