The fecal occult blood test (FOBT) is performed as part of the routine physical examination during the examination of the rectum. It is used to detect microscopic blood in the stool and is a screening tool for colorectal cancer.
FOBT uses chemical indicators on stool samples to detect the presence of blood not otherwise visible. (The word "occult" in the test's name means that the blood is hidden from view.) Blood originating from or passing through the gastrointestinal tract can signal many conditions requiring further diagnostic procedures and, possibly, medical intervention. These conditions may be benign or malignant and some of them include:
irritations or lesions of the gastrointestinal tract caused by stomach acid disorders, such as reflux esophagitis
The FOBT is used routinely (in conjunction with a rectal examination performed by a physician) to screen for colorectal cancer, particularly after age 50. The ordering of this test should not be taken as an indication that cancer is suspected. The FOBT must be combined with regular screening endoscopy (such as a sigmoidoscopy) to detect cancers at an early stage.
Certain foods and medicines can influence the test results. Some fruits contain chemicals that prevent the guaiac, the chemical in which the test paper is soaked, from reacting with the blood. Aspirin and some NSAIDs irritate the stomach, resulting in bleeding and should be avoided prior to the examination, along with red meat and many vegetables and fruits containing vitamin C. All of these factors could result in a false-positive test.
Jill S. Lasker, Cheryl Branche M.D., The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit,