Colorectal cancer ultrasound

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


Abdominal ultrasound can be used to look for tumors in the liver, gallbladder, pancreas, or elsewhere in your abdomen, but it can't look for colorectal cancer. The two special types of ultrasound exams that can be performed to evaluate colon and rectal cancers are endorectal ultrasound and intraoperative ultrasound.


Two types of ultrasound exams can be performed to evaluate colon and rectal cancers:

Endorectal ultrasound

  • An endorectal ultrasound may be helpful in the staging of colorectal cancer.
  • This test uses a special transducer that is inserted directly into the rectum.
  • It is used to see how far through the rectal wall a cancer may have penetrated and whether it has spread to nearby organs or tissues such as lymph nodes.[1]

Intraoperative ultrasound

  • An intraoperative ultrasound may be helpful in the detection of liver metastasis.

  • It is performed during surgery after the abdominal cavity has been opened.
  • The transducer can be placed against the surface of the liver, making this test very useful for detecting the spread of colorectal cancer to the liver.[2]


  1. Surace A, Ferrarese A, Marola S, Borello A, Cumbo J, Rivelli M; et al. (2014). "Endorectal ultrasound in the diagnosis of rectal cancer: accuracy and criticies". Int J Surg. 12 Suppl 2: S99–S102. doi:10.1016/j.ijsu.2014.08.370. PMID 25183646.
  2. Damian CD, Rednic N, Munteanu D, Cazacu M (2014). "The role of intraoperative ultrasound for the assessment of the focal liver lesions in patients with colorectal cancer". Med Ultrason. 16 (2): 114–8. PMID 24791842.

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