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Stool Tests for Colorectal Cancer

A stool test is one of many tests used to look for colorectal cancer. These tests may find cancer early, when treatment works better. Colorectal cancer affects the large intestine (colon camera.gif) and the rectum.

There are three kinds of stool tests:

  • Fecal occult blood test (FOBT). For this test, you put tiny samples of your stool on a special card or cloth and send it to a lab. The lab uses chemicals to find blood that you can't see with the naked eye. With some test kits, you can add the chemicals yourself at home. FOBT tests don't cost much.
  • Fecal immunochemical test (FIT), also called an immunochemical fecal occult blood test (iFOBT). This is a test that may be easier to do at home than FOBT. There are no drug or food restrictions, and collecting a stool sample may take less effort. But it costs more than FOBT.
  • Stool DNA test (sDNA). Instead of looking for blood in the stool, this test looks for abnormal DNA from cancer or polyp cells. Of the three tests, it costs the most.

Blood in the stool may be the only symptom of colorectal cancer, but not all blood in the stool is caused by cancer. Other conditions that can cause blood in the stool include:

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.

Colon Cancer: Which Screening Test Should I Have?

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: January 17, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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