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Fecal Occult Blood Test


How Often Do I Need to Have a Fecal Occult Blood Test?

To allow for the early detection and prevention of colorectal cancer, the fecal occult blood test is recommended yearly for everyone starting at age 50. This annual test may be recommended along with a flexible sigmoidoscopy and barium enema every five years to check for colorectal polyps or cancer. An alternative is a colonoscopy every 10 years.

What Do the Fecal Occult Blood Test Results Mean?

Because small amounts of blood normally appear in the stool, tests for occult blood are designed to detect larger quantities of blood.

A positive fecal occult blood test means that blood has been found in the stool. Your doctor will have to determine the source of the bleeding, either by doing a colonoscopy, and an upper gastrointestinal endoscopy (EGD) to determine if the bleeding is coming from the stomach or small intestine. If these are negative, swallowing a small capsule (capsule endoscopy) may be performed. This capsule takes pictures of the gastrointestinal tract as it passes through and may see areas of bleeding not seen by other studies, especially in the small intestine.

A negative test result means that no blood was found in the stool sample during the testing period. You should continue to follow your doctor's recommendations for regular cancer screening.


WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Arnold Wax, MD on June 01, 2012
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