Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Lab tests for colorectal cancer

Lab tests for colorectal cancer

In addition to stool tests, other lab tests may be recommended to help doctors diagnose and stage colorectal cancer and/or follow the progress of your treatment. These include:

  • Genomic tumor assessment: Genomic testing is used to analyze a tumor on a molecular level to identify DNA alterations that may be driving the cancer’s growth. By identifying the mutations in a cancer cell's genome, doctors may better understand what caused the tumor and tailor treatment based on these findings. Learn more about genomic tumor assessment.
  • Tumor molecular profiling: When a solid tumor is detected, the doctor may remove a sample of tissue during a biopsy or surgery. The tumor will be tested for the presence of a variety of enzymes, proteins and genes to help determine an appropriate treatment plan. Learn more about tumor molecular profiling.
  • CBC test: Complete blood count (CBC) tests may be used to measure different types of cells in the blood. A CBC test may be particularly helpful in determining whether you have too few red blood cells, which causes anemia. This may be a concern for colorectal cancer patients, because it may indicate that they have a tumor that’s been bleeding for some time.
  • Liver function tests: These blood tests may be performed to assess the function of the liver and determine whether colorectal cancer has spread to that organ.
  • Tumor marker tests: This blood test may be used in addition to other tests for patients who are being treated for colorectal cancer. Tumor marker tests are used to check for two substances in the blood that colorectal cancer may produce: carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) and CA 19-9. The tests may help determine an appropriate course of treatment and, sometimes, whether the disease is likely to recur.
  • Nutrition panel: This test may be used to evaluate patients for nutrient deficiency, such as low vitamin D and iron, to determine. The test helps identify the nutrients patients may need replaced or boosted to support their quality of life. Learn more about our nutrition therapy program.

What is a lab test?

To diagnose colorectal cancer, your doctor may recommend various lab tests. Your doctor will collect a blood or stool sample, and then send it to a pathologist or a lab for further testing.