Ask the Doctor
November 26, 2013

How is cancer of the bowels diagnosed?

Dear Doc,

My sister, who presently lives in the UK, was diagnosed and treated for cancer of her bowels. They informed me that she was instructed to advise her siblings to get tested. What do these “tests” involve?


Dear Laurel,

Due to the strong family link with bowel cancer it makes good practice to investigate close family members of anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer of the bowels. The notion that early diagnosis has the best outcomes justifies this principle.

Depending on the part of the bowel that the cancer was diagnosed would require different degrees or modes of investigation, but generally the entire bowel must carry suspicion. Cancers of the large intestines are more common than the small intestines, generally.

With a family history like yours, you will need to have a “scope” done of your bowels. This involves the use of a flexible fibre-optic instrument with a camera at the end. The instrument is entered through the desired orifice and allows direct visual investigation of the bowels. During this process, any suspicious findings can be photographed, biopsied or even totally removed. After being scoped with no bad findings, you will be advised to have your stool examined for blood by the laboratory at regular intervals and also you would be advised to have a scope at specified intervals.


SVG Cancer Society,

P.O. Box 709, Kingstown.