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Understanding Occult Blood Test

The fecal occult blood test (FOBT), aka Stool Hemoglobin or Stool Blood, is a fecal immunochemical test (FIT) that qualitatively detects human hemoglobin from blood in fecal samples. It is often referred to as FIT.

This is a useful screening aid for detecting primarily lower gastrointestinal (G.I.) disorders that may be related to iron deficiency anemia, diverticulitis, ulcerative colitis, polyps, adenomas, colorectal cancers or other G.I. lesions that can bleed. It is recommended for use by health professionals as part of routine physical examinations and in screening for colorectal cancer or other sources of lower G.I. bleeding.

Colorectal cancer is the third most common type of cancer among men and women in the United States(1) and is the main concern when blood is found in your stool.

Each year, about 150,000 Americans are diagnosed with colorectal cancer, and about 50,000 die from the disease(2). However, less than 50% of the people found to have colorectal cancer are diagnosed at an early stage when treatment is most effective. Many people are living with a serious risk that they don’t even know about.

You May be at Risk if You

  • Are over 50 years of age
  • Had colorectal polyps or cancer in the past
  • Have a family history of colorectal cancer (in parent, brother, sister, or child)
  • Have ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease
  • Eat a diet high in fat and low in calcium, fiber, and folate
  • Smoke cigarettes
  • Have certain genetic conditions

According to Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, in the United States, a man’s average lifetime risk of colon cancer is about one in 17. For a woman, the risk is about one in 19. Medical experts advise that anyone at age 50 or older at average risk should be screened annually with the fecal occult blood test (FOBT-FIT) for this disease.

Colorectal cancer screening remains highly underused by medical professionals and lags far behind screening for breast and cervical cancers. As many as 60% of deaths from colorectal cancer could be prevented if everyone age 50 and older were screened regularly.

1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Colorectal Cancer: Basic Information.
2. American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy. Facts about colorectal cancer. Available at:

For more information about colorectal cancer, we recommend these web sites: