Fecal Occult Blood Test
Does this test have other names?
FOBT, stool occult blood
What is this test?
A fecal occult blood test checks a stool sample for blood that can't be seen with
the naked eye. Blood in the stool is a sign of bleeding in the digestive tract. This
could indicate cancer, polyps, hemorrhoids, diverticulosis, or inflammatory bowel
disease, also called colitis.
Why do I need this test?
The American Cancer Society recommends that all men and women at average risk for
colon cancer start screening tests at age 50. One screening test option is a fecal
occult blood test every year. This simple test can help find colon or rectal cancer.
Your healthcare provider may give you the test. Or you can buy a home use kit.
What other tests might I have along with this test?
If the fecal occult blood test shows blood in the stool, you will need a colonoscopy to
find out the source and nature of the bleeding.
What do my test results mean?
Many things may affect your lab test results. These include the method each lab uses
to do the test. Even if your test results are different from the normal value, you
may not have a problem. To learn what the results mean for you, talk with your healthcare
A fecal occult blood test uses chemicals to find out if there is blood in a sample
of feces. If your test is negative, your result is normal.
If your test is positive, you had blood from your digestive tract in your stool sample.
Additional testing, such as a colonoscopy, can help find out the location, cause,
and extent of the bleeding.
How is this test done?
Your healthcare provider gives you a kit to help you collect and prepare bowel movement
samples for the fecal occult blood test. The test requires collecting samples from
more than one bowel movement – typically, 3 in a row. You then mail the samples to
a lab or returning them to your healthcare provider's office.
Collecting and preparing the samples typically follows these steps:
Collect one of your stools in a dry container. Don't allow urine to mix with it.
Use a wooden applicator to put a small smear of stool on the card or slide you have
Flush the unused stool down the toilet.
Seal the sample and write your name and date on it.
Repeat this process for the next two stools, or as instructed.
Does this test pose any risks?
This test poses no known risks.
What might affect my test results?
A positive result on a fecal occult blood test doesn't mean you have cancer. Other
health conditions, such as ulcers or hemorrhoids, more commonly can cause a positive
test result. Healthcare providers will do more tests find the cause.
Eating certain foods can affect the test results, even though the fecal occult blood
test only detects human blood. Your healthcare provider may ask you to avoid certain
foods a few days before the test to lower the chances of getting a false-positive
How do I get ready for this test?
Do not take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen or naproxen, or
aspirin for 7 days before the test. Acetaminophen is safe to use. If you take aspirin
daily to prevent heart disease, talk with your healthcare provider before you stop
taking this medicine.
Do not take vitamin C supplements or drink or eat juice or fruits high in vitamin
C for 7 days before the test. Vitamin C can cause a false-negative test result.
Don't eat red meat, such as beef, lamb, pork, and liver, for 3 days before testing.
Although it's unlikely, these foods could alter your test result. In some cases, healthcare
providers don't give any restrictions because this may make patients less likely to
do the test. Having the test is the most important thing.