Learning About the Colon Biopsy

A Colon Biopsy Can Be Used to Check for Colon Cancer or Other Colon Conditions

Why You May Need a Colon Biopsy

Your doctor may order a colon biopsy to check for or "rule out" colon cancer or other conditions, such as inflammatory bowel disease. A symptom, such as blood in your stool, may lead your doctor to recommend a colon biopsy as well.

What is a Colon Biopsy?

A biopsy is the technical term used to describe a tissue sample that doctors use to diagnose a condition or disease.

It can be performed on the colon, though it can be performed on other parts of the body (using different techniques) too. You may hear a biopsy referred to as a tissue sample. Biopsies can be used prove or disprove that symptoms are associated with a particular disease or condition.

In the case of colon biopsy, a doctor will take a tissue sample from your colon or rectum. The biopsy will be sent to a specialist called a pathologist, who will check the biopsy.

What Happens with The Colon Biopsy Sample?

The pathologist may look at the tissue sample under a microscope or run other tests on the biopsy. In this way, the tissue can be checked for colon cancer or for another condition, such as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis. If none of these diseases are found, this means the biopsy has helped to "rule out" these conditions as the cause of a particular symptom, such as blood in the stool.

How Does My Doctor Get a Colon Biopsy From Me?

In order to obtain a biopsy from the colon, your doctor will perform a colonoscopy or flexible sigmoidoscopy.

Both of these tests involve having a long thin tube, or scope, inserted through the anus and into the rectum and colon.

The doctor can see the inside of your rectum and colon through a tiny camera on the end of the scope. The scope is also equipped with a small instrument that allows the doctor to collect or "snip" a tiny bit of tissue from the colon.

This tissue is the biopsy, and this is what is sent to a pathologist for examination.

To learn more, be sure to check out details on colonoscopies and other types of tests that are used to screen for colon cancer, how to prepare for these tests, and what to expect when you get them.


"Colon Testing Saves Lives." American Cancer Society. Accessed: June 2009.

"Overview: Colon and Rectum Cancer - How Is Colorectal Cancer Found?" American Cancer Society. Accessed: June 2009

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