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Stool guaiac test

Colon cancer - guaiac test; Colorectal cancer - guaiac test; gFOBT; Guaiac smear test; Fecal occult blood test - guaiac smear; Stool occult blood test - guaiac smear

The stool guaiac test looks for hidden (occult) blood in a stool sample. It can find blood even if you cannot see it yourself. It is the most common type of fecal occult blood test (FOBT).

Guaiac is a substance from a plant that is used to coat the FOBT test cards.

How the Test is Performed

Usually, you collect a small sample of stool at home. Sometimes, a health care provider may collect a small amount of stool from you during a rectal examination.

If the test is done at home, you will use a test kit. Follow the kit instructions exactly. This ensures accurate results. In brief:

  • You collect a stool sample from 3 different bowel movements.
  • For each bowel movement, you smear a small amount of the stool on a card provided in the kit.
  • You mail the card to a laboratory for testing.

Be sure to keep the stool away from any urine. Mixing of urine and stool can spoil the sample.

How to Prepare for the Test

Some foods can affect test results. Follow instructions about not eating certain foods before the test. These may include:

  • Red meat
  • Cantaloupe
  • Uncooked broccoli
  • Turnip
  • Radish
  • Horseradish

Some medicines may interfere with the test. These include vitamin C, aspirin, and NSAIDs such as ibuprofen and naproxen. Ask your provider if you need to stop taking these before the test. Never stop or change your medicine without first talking to your provider.

How the Test will Feel

The at-home test involves a normal bowel movement. There is no discomfort.

You may have some discomfort if the stool is collected during a rectal exam.

Why the Test is Performed

This test detects blood in the digestive tract. It may be done if:

  • You are being screened or tested for colon cancer.
  • You have abdominal pain, changes in bowel movements, or weight loss.
  • You have anemia (low blood count).
  • You say you have blood in the stool or black, tarry stools.

Normal Results

A negative test result means that there is no blood in the stool. Occasionally, this test will miss very small amounts of blood in the stool that is below the level of detection of this test (false negative).

What Abnormal Results Mean

Abnormal results may be due to problems that cause bleeding in the stomach or intestinal tract, including:

Other causes of a positive test may include:

  • Nosebleed
  • Coughing up blood and then swallowing it

If the stool guaiac results come back positive for blood in the stool, your doctor will likely order other tests, often including a colonoscopy.

The stool guaiac test does not diagnose cancer. Screening tests such as colonoscopy can help detect cancer. The stool guaiac test and other screenings can catch colon cancer early, when it is easier to treat.

Risks

There can be false-positive and false-negative results.

Errors are reduced when you follow instructions during collection and avoid certain foods and medicines.

References

Patel SG, May FP, Anderson JC, et al. Updates on age to start and stop colorectal cancer screening: recommendations from the U.S. Multi-Society Task Force on colorectal cancer. Gastroenterology. 2022;162(1):285-299. PMID: 34794816 pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34794816/.

Savides TJ, Jensen DM. Gastrointestinal bleeding. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 20.

US Preventive Services Task Force, Davidson KW, Barry MJ, et al. Screening for Colorectal Cancer: US Preventive Services Task Force Recommendation Statement. JAMA. 2021;325(19):1965-1977. PMID: 34003218 pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34003218/.

  • Fecal occult blood test

    Fecal occult blood test - illustration

    A fecal occult blood test is a noninvasive test that detects the presence of hidden blood in the stool. Blood in the stool that is not visible is often the first, and in many cases the only, warning sign that a person has colorectal disease, including colon cancer.

    Fecal occult blood test

    illustration

    • Fecal occult blood test

      Fecal occult blood test - illustration

      A fecal occult blood test is a noninvasive test that detects the presence of hidden blood in the stool. Blood in the stool that is not visible is often the first, and in many cases the only, warning sign that a person has colorectal disease, including colon cancer.

      Fecal occult blood test

      illustration

    Tests for Stool guaiac test

     

    Review Date: 1/30/2023

    Reviewed By: Michael M. Phillips, MD, Emeritus Professor of Medicine, The George Washington University School of Medicine, Washington, DC. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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