Colorectal cancer other imaging findings

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To view the other imaging findings of familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP), click here
To view the other imaging findings of hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC), click here

Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1] Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Saarah T. Alkhairy, M.D.


Other imaging tests that can be used for colorectal cancer are endoscopy, PET scan, barium study, and angiography.

Other Imaging Findings

Virtual colonoscopy

PET scan

  • Cancer cells in the body grow rapidly, so they absorb the radioactive sugar fluorodeoxyglucose or FDG used in positron emission tomography (PET).
  • The location and extent of the tumor mass can be determined using a PET scan.
  • Also, metastatic lesions and their locations can be assessed using a PET scan.
  • PET scans are evolving as a very useful modality for staging and assessment of colorectal cancers.
  • PET-CT scan has the advantage tissue based resolution and is useful in detecting whole body metastasis.

Barium Study

  • First, an overnight preparation is taken to cleanse the colon.
  • An enema containing barium sulfate is administered, then air is insufflated into the colon, distending it.
  • The result is a thin layer of barium over the inner lining of the colon which is visible on X-ray films.
  • A cancer or a precancerous polyp can be detected this way.
  • This technique can miss the (less common) flat polyp. Barium study can be used to delineate the lesion preoperatively.


  1. Morrin MM, LaMont JT (2003). "Screening virtual colonoscopy--ready for prime time?". N Engl J Med. 349 (23): 2261–4. doi:10.1056/NEJMe038181. PMID 14657435.