While a colonoscopy remains the gold standard for colon cancer detection, the procedure has earned some level of notoriety due to its invasive nature and the extensive preparation it entails. Thus, people are searching for noninvasive and convenient alternatives, among which is the fecal occult blood test (FOBT).
Here’s the information you need to get a basic understanding of FOBTs, particularly their benefits and limitations.
FOBTs Are Simple and Easy to Use
Also termed hemoccult tests, fecal occult blood tests employ plant-based testing substances (guaiac) or antibody proteins (immunochemical tests) to uncover the presence of blood in a stool sample.
You can do the test at home: simply place the stool sample into a special kit, then take it to your physician, who will send the specimen to the lab for analysis.
Prior to the test, your GI specialist will provide you with detailed instructions to ensure accuracy. Your doctor will likely advise that you avoid consuming certain foods (e.g., red meat, red or purple vegetables, etc.) and skip supplements, such as vitamin C, or medications for a period of time, as these can skew the results.
After your fecal occult blood test, you can return to your normal daily activities and consume your usual diet, vitamins, and medications.
FOBTs Have High Compliance and Satisfaction Rates
There have been emerging studies that suggest FOBT to be as effective as a colonoscopy if performed every year. Separate statistics show that this method has high compliance and satisfaction rates.
However, it’s important to take note that an FOBT has its limitations and is, therefore, no substitute for colonoscopy. Unfortunately, many adults who need colon cancer screening opt out of colonoscopy or only rely on FOBT. This thinking is precarious at best, as colonoscopy is highly effective and essential for visualizing and removing colon polyps. Additionally, both cancerous and precancerous polyps may not bleed. Thus, with FOBTs, these dangerous growths can escape detection until they are advanced and become less treatable.
Consulting Your GI Specialist About FOBT
Your GI specialist is your best resource for accurate information on FOBT: they can advise you if this is the most suitable screening method for you, based on your risk factors, personal preference, and unique situation.
Here are some questions you may wish to ask your healthcare provider:
- Why should I take one of these tests?
- When will I learn results of my FOBT?
- How often should I take a stool test?
- Would a follow-up colonoscopy confirm reasons for a positive FOBT?
Fecal Occult Blood Tests in California
At inSite Digestive Care, we offer a full range of gastroenterology services— including fecal occult blood tests and other colon cancer screening modalities— living up to our foremost goal, which is to provide patients throughout the state of California with comprehensive health care.
For more information or to arrange an appointment, please call our location near you, or fill out this appointment request form. We will contact you promptly.