Once you’ve been referred to us, we’ll carry out a number of tests to help reach a diagnosis.

Here are some of the most common tests:

Before you’re referred to us you may have had surgery or biopsies at your local hospital. The specialist doctors who look at these ‘slides’ or ‘blocks’ are called histopathologists. Our histopathologists may wish to review your slides, as they are experts in making specialist diagnoses of rare tumours.

We use Computerised Tomography (CT) scans to see how big tumours are and whether they’ve spread to other organs.

The CT Process

  • You drink a special dye.
  • You’ll also be given a special dye through a drip in your vein.
  • You lie down and are moved through a doughnut shaped tube.
  • A rotating machine aims X-rays at you and a detector collects images.
  • You can usually go home on the same day as the procedure.
  • A doctor (radiologist) reviews the images, compares them with your previous scans and writes a report for your consultant.

CT Colonoscopy (CT colonogram)

This procedure uses a CT scanner to produce pictures of the lining of your colon and rectum. It’s particularly useful if you would find a colonoscopy (using an endoscope) difficult.

This test uses sound waves to create a picture of organs within the abdomen. You’ll lie on a couch while the operator puts lubricating jelly on your skin and uses a probe on the abdomen. It’s a common way of looking for gallstones, collections of fluid in the abdomen or looking for blood clots in the legs.

A positron emission tomography (PET) CT scan uses a small amount of radioactive material to show body tissues that are more active than normal. This increased activity may help diagnose cancer or reveal if cancer has spread to other organs in your body. Such scans can also monitor ongoing treatment or help tell the difference between scar tissue and recurring cancer.

Download the PET CT colonoscopy booklet

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) uses magnetism and radio waves to build up a picture of what is going on inside the body. For a scan, you lie down and are passed through a tube. MRI is often used to look at solid organs that do not move much, as in the case of the liver and in the pelvis (lowest part of the abdomen).

Download the MRI booklet 

This procedure uses a thin, flexible tube with a tiny camera attached (a colonoscope) to investigate the lining of your large bowel. If polyps are found, most can be removed painlessly, then checked to see if they’re cancerous.

Download our ‘Guide to Colonoscopy’

This procedure uses a thin, flexible tube with a tiny camera attached (flexible sigmoidoscope) to look inside your rectum (back passage) and lower part of your large bowel. It’s usually done without the need for sedation.

Download our ‘Guide to Flexible Sigmoidoscopy’

This procedure looks inside your gullet, stomach and first part of your small intestine by using an endoscope (a thin, flexible tube containing a light and a camera). You may have a throat-numbing local anaesthetic or have sedation.

Download our ‘Guide to Gastroscopy’  

This procedure involves actually looking into your tummy through ‘keyhole’ cuts in the skin, and the insertion of a camera. It is an operation, so you will require a general anaesthetic. Because of this it does carry some of the risks of surgery, creates wounds that need to heal and may require you to spend a night in hospital (although most patients go home the same day).  

These may include:

  • Full Blood Count (FBC) - A measure of the number of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets, which can determine if there is any signs of infection or anaemia (low blood count).
  • Liver Function Tests (LFT) - Often used to investigate symptoms such as abdominal pains and jaundice.
  • Urea and Electrolytes (U&E) - To determine how well the kidneys are working and whether you are at risk of dehydration.
  • Glucose - To see how the pancreas is working and whether you are at risk of developing diabetes.
  • Tumour Markers - These substances are produced by a tumour or in response to one. They’re not 100% sensitive or specific enough as tests, but can help with a diagnosis. We routinely measure CEA, Ca125 and C19.9.

Some faulty genes can be hereditary and blood can be tested to look for them. You and family members will be tested, which can take a few months. Having a faulty gene doesn’t mean you will develop the cancer, but it’s important to know that it’s there. You can have regular surveillance to make sure cancer doesn’t develop or have surgery to prevent cancer occurring. You can also help your children prepare for their risk. 

You’ll have your investigations and treatment plans reviewed at a specialised multidisciplinary team (MDT) meeting. Each case is presented and discussed by surgeons, oncologists, radiologists, histopathologists and specialist nurses. Bringing together different opinions and experience helps achieve the best possible outcome for you.