Skip to main content
Explore URMC

Wilmot Cancer Institute Logo

menu

Symptoms & Diagnosis

At Wilmot Cancer Institute, we provide the full spectrum of care, from initial diagnosis and treatment to recovery and rehabilitation.

Colorectal malignancies are in a group known as gastrointestinal (GI) cancers, and Wilmot offers the largest team of GI specialists in the Finger Lakes region. Wilmot also offers the most advanced treatments, technology, and clinical trials. It also provides a Colorectal Physiology Center, offering compassionate and comprehensive colorectal services and support. The state-of-the-art Center is the only one of its kind within 450 miles of Rochester.

We work in multidisciplinary teams. “Multidisciplinary” means that our groups of care providers include experts with a variety of specialties: surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, pathologists, radiologists, nurse practitioners, social workers, and clinical researchers. They work together on your case to provide the most personalized care possible.

Colorectal cancer symptoms

Getting an accurate diagnosis is essential to getting the best treatment. Through screening, colorectal cancer can be found early when no symptoms or few symptoms are present. In addition, don't ignore these commons signs, though:

  • Blood in the stools, dark stools, changes in bowel habits (constipation, diarrhea, narrow stools) that lasts more than a few days, or a feeling that the bowel doesn’t empty.
  • Frequent belly pain or gas
  • Weakness and unexplained weight loss.

How is colorectal cancer diagnosed?

If colon or rectal cancer is suspected, these tests are used:

Medical history and physical examination: This step includes a complete medical history, assessment of risk factors and symptoms, and a digital rectal exam.

Colonoscopy: This is the gold standard procedure to detect colon cancer. It involves looking inside the rectum and colon using a thin instrument with a light and lens for viewing. Polyps and other tissue can be removed during a colonoscopy. A related procedure, called a CT colonoscopy, can also be used to get more detailed views of the colon. Wilmot and UR Medicine offer screening and diagnostic colonoscopies at two locations:

  • Sawgrass Endoscopy Center, 180 Sawgrass Drive, Suite 230, Rochester
  • URMC Konar Center for Digestive Disease, 4th floor of the ambulatory care center at Strong Memorial Hospital

Learn more by calling (585) 275-4711 of visiting the Department of Gastroenterology & Hepatology

Fecal occult blood test: This test essentially looks for blood in the stool. It only detects about 30 percent of polyps, so it is not very reliable for catching polyps before they become cancerous. It detects tumors about 70 percent of the time. This type of test is one of three that can be done at home.

Fecal immunochemical test: Another at-home option, this test detects polyps and cancer better than the fecal occult blood test, but it’s not as good as a colonoscopy. 

Cologuard: This third type of at-home test was approved in 2015 by the FDA. It can detect blood in the stool as well as different DNA mutations associated with colon cancer. This test picks up about 90 percent of colon cancers and 40 percent of polyps. The downside, however, is that it usually detects polyps once they are larger or in a more advanced stage. Talk to your doctor about the advantages and disadvantages of at-home tests.

Sigmoidoscopy: A procedure similar to a colonoscopy to look inside the lower colon and rectum.

Barium enema: This procedure is often called a GI series, and it involves taking a series of x-rays after a liquid that contains barium is placed into the rectum.

Biopsy: This involves removing cells or other tissue for further examination by a specialized pathologist.

Imaging tests: This includes x-rays, CT scans, MRI, PET scans, ultrasound or angiography.