Neoplasms in the colon and rectum are known to bleed early in their development. An inexpensive, easy-to-perform screening tool is the test for occult (hidden) blood in the stool.
Patients are asked to consume diets high in fiber and restrict the consumption of red meat, vitamin C, and NSAID drugs for several days prior to testing. Since adenomas and other tumors bleed intermittently, samples are taken from three successive stool specimens.
The patient is given three small cards and asked to provide samples from three consecutive bowel movements. A small amount of stool is placed on a special test strip on each card. This stool may be tested in the doctor's office or sent to a laboratory to see if there is any occult blood in the specimen.
Positive results indicate the need for a complete examination of the colon. The sensitivity of fecal occult blood testing ranges from 30%–92%, with a specificity of 98%.
|Package of three hemoccult cards|
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