Good Health Blog

Maybe not pleasant but a real lifesaver! The FOBT….

- October 22, 2018

It is a hard to pronounce acronym but FOBT stands for Faecal occult blood test

A faecal occult blood test (FOBT) is a simple test that looks for the early signs of bowel cancer. It can be done in the privacy of your own home and involves taking a minuscule sample from two separate bowel motions (faeces) using a test kit. Samples are then sent to a laboratory for testing.

FOBTs look for tiny amounts of blood (that often can’t be seen by the naked eye) in bowel motions. Blood is usually caused by something less serious than cancer. However, it may be a sign of an early bowel cancer or a polyp: a growth on the inside of the bowel that could develop into cancer. If the FOBT finds blood, more tests are done to find out what’s caused the bleeding.

Men and women aged 50 and over, without symptoms and without a strong family history of bowel cancer, are encouraged to do an FOBT every two years. Those with a strong family history of bowel cancer or any symptoms should see a doctor.
Although no screening test is 100% accurate, the FOBT is currently the most widely available and well trialled screening test for bowel cancer. If you do an FOBT every two years, you can reduce your risk of dying from bowel cancer by up to a third.

There could be several reasons for finding blood in a bowel motion that may not be related to bowel cancer, for example, bleeding from piles, menstrual blood, etc.

However, if blood is found, it’s important to speak to your doctor. Your doctor will talk with you about follow-up tests (such as colonoscopies) which check for bowel cancer, polyps or other causes of the positive FOBT result.

Remember, bowel cancer is 90% curable if found at an early stage.