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Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Barium swallow or enema

Barium swallow, or esophagram, is an X-ray test that allows doctors to examine the throat and esophagus. For the test, patients drink a solution containing barium, a chalky, white metallic powder. The solution travels down the digestive tract. A series of X-rays are then taken. The X-rays do not pass through the barium-coated organs, producing images that show abnormal areas doctors may need to look at more closely through an endoscopic procedure or other diagnostic imaging test.

A barium swallow may be performed as part of an upper gastrointestinal (GI) series test, which examines the esophagus, stomach and small intestine.

Barium enema is a test is used to take X-rays of the large intestine, which includes the colon and rectum. First, a doctor delivers an enema containing barium through a thin tube that is inserted through the rectum. The solution travels through the rectum and colon, coating the organs. After the solution has been given, air is released through the tube to help the colon expand and make it easier for the doctor to see abnormal growths. A series of X-rays are then taken to reveal images of the colon and rectum. The X-rays may help the doctor detect polyps and other suspicious tissues that may need to be looked at more closely or removed in a colonoscopy.

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