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NCCN Guidelines for Patients



Rectal Cancer, Version 1.2017


Treatment planning

Blood tests


Imaging tests

Blood tests

Blood tests are used to look for signs of disease. A

needle will be inserted into your vein to remove a

sample of blood. The needle may bruise your skin

and you may feel dizzy from the blood draw. Your

blood sample will then be sent to a lab where a

pathologist will test it. A pathologist is a doctor who’s

an expert in testing cells to find disease.

Complete blood count







ount) measures the number

of blood cells in a blood sample. It includes numbers

of white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets.

Cancer and other health problems can cause low or

high counts.

Chemistry profile

Another blood test is a chemistry profile. When rectal

cancer spreads, it can cause high or low levels of

chemicals in the blood. One example is a high CEA







ntigen) level. CEA is normally

low in healthy adults unless a woman is pregnant.

High CEA levels suggest the cancer has spread far.

Imaging tests

Imaging tests make pictures (images) of the insides

of your body. They can show which sites have

cancer. This information helps your doctors stage

the cancer and plan treatment. Certain imaging tests

also reveal some features of a tumor and its cells.

A radiologist is a doctor who’s an expert in reading

images. Your radiologist will convey the imaging

results to your cancer doctor. This information helps

your doctor decide what the next steps of care

should be.

Your treatment team will tell you how to prepare

for these tests. You may need to stop taking some

medicines and stop eating and drinking for a few

hours before the scan. Tell your team if you get

nervous when in small spaces. You may be given a

sedative to help you relax.

Most imaging for rectal cancer is done with a large


Figure 7

shows one type. You will likely

be lying down during testing. At least part of your

body will be in the machine.

Figure 7

CT machine

Pictures of the insides of your body can

be made with an imaging test. During the

scan, you will lie on a table that will move

into the tunnel of the imaging machine.

The pictures will be viewed by a doctor

who will look for signs of cancer.

Copyright © 2017 National Comprehensive Cancer Network