No News Is Not Necessarily Good News – Get Your Stool-Based Screening Results


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I'll admit it. I sometimes don't follow up with my doctor's office if they neglect to call me after a scan or lab work. Against everything inside of me that knows how to be a "good patient" and advocate for myself, I still don't always call to follow-up. Sometimes I am busy. Sometimes I assume no news is good news. And sometimes, I still operate under a "what I don't know won't hurt me" mindset.

However, I know this isn't right. I need to be proactive when it comes to getting results. And a fellow survivor's story hitting the news is a prime example. Not only because he exemplifies why patients need to follow up with their doctors, but his story also shines a light on the EXTREME importance of knowing your results when you use a take-home colorectal cancer screening test.

Understanding stool-based screening tests

According to reports, a fellow survivor underwent a Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT) test and never received the results. He and his wife assumed no news was good news and carried on. Unfortunately, this was not the case for him. The test was positive. He ended up receiving a colorectal cancer diagnosis, surgery, and treatment years after his positive FOBT test. Results should have been returned within a week for his FOBT (after the doctor sent the sample to a lab for analysis.) Unfortunately, this man never received his results.

There is a tragedy and victory in this man's story. It's tragic that he never received his results. However, the positive test result (that he should have known about years earlier) shows a victory. Stool-based screening tests for colorectal cancer are effective.

If you're not familiar, here's a brief overview of the two most common stool-based tests for colorectal cancer:

  1. Guaiac FOBT (g-FOBT) is a stool-based colorectal cancer screening option that allows patients to get stool samples in the comfort of their own homes. The test looks for microscopic blood in the stool, a symptom of CRC. Dietary restrictions are required up to 72 hours prior to providing stool samples for this chemical test. If a FOBT test is positive, it means the test has detected blood. It does not necessarily mean it has detected cancer.
  2. FIT (Fecal Immunochemical Test) is a stool-based colorectal cancer screening test that can be done at home as well. The FIT test works similarly to the FOBT test, reacting to antibodies in human hemoglobin protein. With this test there are no dietary restrictions. Studies have shown the FIT has higher sensitivity and specificity compared to FOBT.

Both tests are low-cost and non-invasive. When performed properly, they are very effective screening choices. One thing to note - both tests must be done annually, and if positive, it's imperative that the patient receive a follow-up colonoscopy.

Screening WILL Save Lives

We hate to hear about patients who could have avoided a diagnosis of colorectal cancer, surgery, and chemotherapy. Especially when they did the right thing and took the steps to get screened. The screening mechanism was accurate - the test detected blood. Unfortunately, the follow-up failed in this scenario.

Although this is not the ideal patient story, it does show that colorectal cancer screening tests ARE effective, and calling for your results can be the difference between prevention or treatment for colorectal cancer.

There are many ways that screening can save lives and prevent cancer. Scientific studies have shown that people want to choose the FOBT/FIT as a screening test. So if you are thinking about choosing a stool test, just remember two things:

  • You need to take the test every year
  • You need to know your results

Pick the right test for you and no matter if you're preventing or fighting cancer - always get your test results. Do not forget - in colorectal cancer screening, no news does NOT necessarily mean good news.

Donate $25 this holiday season and Quest Diagnostics will give away a colorectal cancer screening FIT test. Donate now! 

Learn more about colorectal cancer screening options.