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Are colorectal home tests reliable?

If you wonder what doctors say about at-home colorectal tests, here is some insight from Dr. Uma Phatak, a colorectal surgeon at UTMB Health.

  • Are colorectal home tests reliable? Yes. Fecal immunochemical testing (FIT) uses antibodies to detect blood in the stool. High sensitivity guiac testing looks for blood in the stool. Stool DNA testing looks for DNA from cancer cells. The only FDA-approved stool-based DNA testing is Cologuard. 
  • How often can I take them? FIT testing or guiac testing should be done yearly. If abnormal, it should be followed up with a colonoscopy. Cologuard can be done every one to three years. If there is an abnormal result, follow up with a colonoscopy.
  • Can these home tests take the place of a colonoscopy? In people who are at average risk, at-home stool-based testing can take the place of a colonoscopy. Average-risk people are those who have no family or personal history of cancer.
  • What else do I need to know? Blood in the stool or on the toilet paper is never normal. Schedule an appointment with your primary care physician to discuss and evaluate the next steps to make an accurate diagnosis.

Do you have more questions? Talk with a UTMB Health colorectal health provider.

Uma Phatak, MD, MS

Dr. Uma Phatak is an Assistant Professor and Section Chief of Colon and Rectal Surgery in the Department of Surgery at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) in Galveston, Texas.