Can You Tell if You Have Cancer by Your Poop?

Diagnosing colon cancer

Like most cancers, it’s best to catch colon cancer in its early stages. Your notice of changes in your poop is the first step. Once you report it to your doctor, they will take steps to diagnose the disease:

Physical examination

Your physician will examine you for any lumps or abnormal findings in your body.

Digital rectal examination

Your physician will feel inside your rectum with a gloved finger. They can detect any lumps or unusual feel of the rectal wall. Digital rectal examination often detects cancers in the rectum.

Fecal occult blood test

You give a stool sample to the laboratory. You can easily see large amounts of blood. If the cancer produces only small amounts of blood, it is not seen (occult blood). Chemical tests can detect this blood. Two types of tests for occult blood in stools are used — guaiac and immunochemical.


A sigmoidoscope is a tube to look inside the rectum and the end of the colon. It has a light at the end and a lens for viewing. A sigmoidoscope also has tools for removing polyps or tumors or collecting biopsies.


A colonoscope is a flexible tube for looking high up inside your colon. Like a sigmoidoscope, it has a light, a lens, and tools. This test is very sensitive and diagnoses up to 72% of colon cancers.

Colonoscopy lets your physician see and remove any colon polyps, which can become cancers later. They can also remove any small cancers they see. If a part of your colon looks suspicious, your physician can take a biopsy. 

CT colonography

Computed tomography (CT) scans of the abdomen can show polyps and other abnormal findings. This procedure is also called virtual colonoscopy and can detect more than 30% of colon cancers.


Pieces of tissue are collected from abnormal appearing areas. Your physician can do this with a sigmoidoscope or colonoscope. A pathologist examines them under a microscope for signs of cancer.

DNA stool test

Your stool sample is tested for genetic changes. Some DNA changes indicate colon cancer.


Colon cancer is deadly, but detecting it early saves lives. If you notice changes in your poop’s appearance, you should take it as an early warning. Pay attention to any other signs of colon cancer, and talk to your physician. Your physician will consider other things like your individual risk factors and decide what tests you need. Your alertness might save your life as detecting colon cancer early improves survival.

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