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If you have an abnormal FOB test|, but aren’t able to have a colonoscopy| or CT colonoscopy|, you may be offered a barium enema instead, although these are rarely needed.
If you had an abnormal FOB test but aren’t able to have a colonoscopy or CT colonoscopy, you may be offered a barium enema instead, although these are rarely needed.
This is a special x-ray of the large bowel. It’s important that the bowel is empty so that a clear picture can be seen. You’ll need to follow a special diet before the test, and your hospital will give you information about this.
During the procedure, a mixture of barium (which shows up on an x-ray) and air is passed into the back passage using a small flexible tube. It’s important to keep the mixture in the bowel until all the x-rays have been taken. The doctor can then watch the passage of the barium through the bowel on an x-ray screen and look for any abnormal areas.
A barium enema takes about 30 minutes and can be uncomfortable and tiring, so it’s a good idea to arrange for someone to travel home with you if possible.
For a couple of days after your enema, you may notice that your stools are white. This is the barium being removed from the body and is nothing to worry about. The barium can also cause constipation| and you may need to take a mild laxative for a couple of days afterwards.
It will probably take several days to a couple of weeks for the results of your tests to be ready. Waiting for results can be a difficult time and you may need support from one of our cancer support specialists|.
Content last reviewed: 1 January 2013
Next planned review: 2015
For answers, support or just a chat, call the Macmillan Support Line free (Monday to Friday, 9am-8pm)
If you have any questions about cancer, need support or just want someone to talk to, ask Macmillan.
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© Macmillan Cancer Support 2013
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