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For the public COLORECTAL SCREENING What should I expect? Faecal occult blood test

Faecal occult blood test (FOBT)

The faecal occult blood test (FOBT) detects small amounts of blood in your faeces which you would not normally see or be aware of. The test is very simple and totally painless. You just have to take a sample of your stool (faeces) and to smear it onto a piece of card. A chemical is added to the sample on the card. If there is a change in colour after adding the chemical, it indicates that some blood is present. You can perform the test at home. Nowadays, you don’t even have to be on a diet before taking the test: the modern types of FOBT (iFOBT) are not influenced any more by the consumption of certain types of food.

There are several types of immunological faecal occult blood test (iFOBT). You can buy most of them in any pharmacy, or have it prescribed by your general practitioner (or gynaecologist, if you are a woman). If you are aged 50-54 years, you are entitled to have one free FOBT each year, and those aged 55 and over can have one free FOBT every two years.

FOBT has one important disadvantage: the presence of blood in your stool does not necessarily mean that you have colorectal cancer. FOBT is definitely not a “cancer test”! A positive result can be a sign of polyps, Crohn’s disease or diverticulitis. If your FOBT turns out positive and you want to be sure that you don’t have colorectal cancer, then you have no other option than to undergo the screening colonoscopy. However, it is definitely better to make at least some prevention effort than no prevention at all. The faecal occult blood test is the basic minimum that you can do for yourself. If you perform it once a year between 50 and 54 years of age, you will have much better prospects in your fight against cancer.

Last updated on 2 February 2015