Stool Tests for Colorectal Cancer
Stool tests may be used to check for colorectal cancer, but they are never used to diagnose it. Other tests for colorectal cancer include flexible sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy, and CT scan (virtual colonoscopy).
A stool test is one of many tests that may be used to screen for colon cancer. Other tests include sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy, and computed tomographic colonography. Which screening test you choose depends on your risk, your preference, and your doctor. Talk to your doctor about what puts you at risk and what test is best for you.
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Why It Is Done
Stool tests are done:
- To look for signs of cancer.
- FOBT and FIT/iFOBT tests look for blood in the stool. These tests are useful to screen for colon cancer, because tissue or polyps with cancer are more likely to bleed than normal colon tissue. If bleeding is found, more tests will be done to find the cause. It's important to call your doctor if a home test shows blood in your stool. A home test doesn't replace the need for a regular exam by your doctor.
- Stool DNA tests look for abnormal changes. Colon cancer cells often contain DNA changes in genes. Cells with these changes can be shed into the stool, where this test may be able to find them.
- As part of a routine physical exam for those with a higher chance of getting colorectal cancer, especially at age 50 and older.
How To Prepare
Since colorectal cancers do not bleed all the time, FOBT and FIT/iFOBT tests are done over several days on different stool samples. This increases the chance of finding blood in your stool if it exists. A stool DNA test requires only one sample.
You may need to avoid certain foods for 2 to 3 days before the test. This depends on what kind of stool test you use. If you aren't sure, ask your doctor.