How Is Your Health?

What Do Doctors Look for During a Colorectal Screening?

by Camila Davidson

In the United States, colorectal cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer deaths. However, regular colorectal screenings can prevent or detect many cases in the early stages. Colorectal screening is a procedure that checks for the presence of cancer or precancerous growths in the colon and rectum. Learning what doctors look for during a colorectal screening and why it is important to schedule regular screenings can help you protect yourself against colorectal cancer.

Family and Personal Medical History

Before performing a colorectal screening, the doctor will ask you about your family and personal medical history. This is important because having a family history of colorectal cancer or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) increases your risk of developing the disease. The doctor will also ask about your symptoms, such as changes in bowel movements, abdominal pain, and rectal bleeding.

Physical Exam

The doctor will perform a physical exam to check for signs of colorectal cancer. This includes a rectal exam, where they check for abnormalities or growths in the rectum. They will also examine the abdomen for lumps or tenderness, which could be a sign of advanced colorectal cancer.

Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT)

A fecal occult blood test is a non-invasive test that checks for blood in the stool. This test is used to screen for colorectal cancer or polyps. If blood is detected in the stool, additional tests, such as a colonoscopy, may be ordered to determine the source of the bleeding.


A colonoscopy is an exam that involves inserting a flexible tube with a camera into the colon and rectum while the patient is under sedation. The doctor looks for polyps, which are small growths that can turn into cancer if left untreated. If polyps are found during the colonoscopy, they will be removed and sent to a lab for testing.

Virtual Colonoscopy

A virtual colonoscopy is a non-invasive procedure that uses a CT scan to create images of the colon and rectum. This is a newer screening method that may be an option for those who cannot undergo a traditional colonoscopy. If polyps are found during the virtual colonoscopy, a traditional colonoscopy may be recommended to remove them.

Colorectal cancer is a preventable disease that can be detected early through regular screenings. To screen for colorectal cancer, the doctor will check your medical history, perform a physical exam, and may order additional tests. If you have a family history of colorectal cancer or IBD, it is important to schedule regular screenings to reduce your risk of developing the disease. 

To learn more about colorectal cancer screening, reach out to a healthcare provider near you.