Fecal Occult Blood Tests (cont.)
Dennis Lee, MD
Dennis Lee, MD
Dr. Lee was born in Shanghai, China, and received his college and medical training in the United States. He is fluent in English and three Chinese dialects. He graduated with chemistry departmental honors from Harvey Mudd College. He was appointed president of AOA society at UCLA School of Medicine. He underwent internal medicine residency and gastroenterology fellowship training at Cedars Sinai Medical Center.
In this Article
Why is fecal occult blood testing done?
A fecal occult blood test is done primarily to detect or prevent colon cancer in people without intestinal symptoms. Cancers of the colon are common and frequently produce fecal occult blood long before they cause other symptoms such as abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, or changes in bowel habits. In addition, some precursors of colon cancer, specifically, some types of colon polyps, also may bleed slowly and cause fecal occult blood. By finding the cancers early through fecal occult blood testing when the cancers are small and before they metastasize (spread to distant organs), patients may be cured of their cancers by removing them surgically. By removing precancerous polyps that are found through fecal occult blood testing, cancer may be prevented.
How is a fecal blood test performed?
For fecal occult blood testing, several (usually three) samples of stool are collected for testing. The reason for testing multiple samples is that bleeding from cancers and polyps often is intermittent and only one of the samples may show blood.
There are two types of fecal occult blood testing, 1) chemical and 2) immunologic.