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Occult Blood in Stool

What is it?

Occult blood is a laboratory test to see if there is blood hidden in the stool. Testing for occult blood is usually part of every routine physical examination. It may also be done if you are having abdominal (belly) pain.

Why do I need it?

  • Blood in the stool may be an early sign of a serious problem. Since colorectal (co-lo-REC-tull) cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths, early detection is essential.
  • Some foods and dyes, beets and food colors for example, change the color of stool so that it may look like it is bloody. Bleeding gums from dental procedures, some medicines, and eating red meat can cause positive results.

How do I get ready for the test?

Many foods can cause a "false positive." Caregivers will give you instructions about what you should not eat for the 2 days before the tests. Some medicines can interfere, so your caregiver will tell you if you should not take these before the test.

How is the test done?

  • There are simple tests to tell if hidden blood is present. Your caregiver may give you a test kit to use at home. The 2 types available today are the smear test and the flushable reagent pads. Both are able to detect hidden blood in the stool. They are different in the way the test is done.
  • The traditional smear test kit is returned to your caregiver and interpreted by them. The flushable reagent pads are available over the counter at many drugstores.Follow the instructions of your caregiver. Write down any color that develops on the reagent pad and return this to your caregiver.
  • The test is probably done for 3 or more days in a row. If these stool occult blood tests are positive, more tests need to be done.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. To help with this plan, you must learn about your lab tests. You can then discuss the results with your caregivers. Work with them to decide what care may be used to treat you. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.