Health care

The Complete Guide to Bowel Test Kits: Detecting and Preventing Colorectal Cancer

Bowel test kit


It’s natural to cringe at the mention of words like ‘colorectal cancer’ or a ‘bowel test kit.’ We’re all human, after all. However, the importance of detection and prevention can’t be overstated when we understand that colorectal cancer is the third most common type of cancer worldwide. One way to detect this silent enemy is by using bowel test kits, which are easy to use, non-invasive, and can be done in the privacy of your own home. This blog post will take you on a journey into understanding these kits, their benefits, how to use them, and their role in preventing colorectal cancer.

What are Bowel Test Kits?

Bowel test kits are tools designed to detect hidden blood in your stool. Why are we looking for blood, you may ask? This is because one of the early signs of colorectal cancer is blood in your stool. However, this bleeding is often so minute that it’s invisible to the naked eye. This is where a bowel test kit comes in handy.

Types of Bowel Test Kits

Two bowel test kits commonly used for colorectal cancer screening are the Guaiac-based Fecal Occult Blood Test (gFOBT) and the Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT).

– gFOBT: The gFOBT uses the chemical guaiac to detect heme, a component of hemoglobin in red blood cells. Hemoglobin may be present in the stool due to bleeding in the digestive tract. This test requires samples from three consecutive bowel movements.

– FIT: The FIT also tests for occult (hidden) blood in the stool but uses antibodies to detect human hemoglobin protein. Unlike gFOBT, the FIT requires only one sample, making it more convenient for many people.

Comparing the Pros and Cons of Different Kits

Following are the pros and cons of the two common types of bowel test kits:

  • gFOBT

– Pros: It’s readily available and relatively inexpensive.

– Cons: It requires samples from three consecutive bowel movements, which may be inconvenient. It also has a higher chance of false-positive results due to heme from other sources like certain foods and medications.

  • FIT

– Pros: It requires only one sample, which makes it more convenient. It’s also more sensitive to lower amounts of blood and specific to human hemoglobin, reducing the risk of false positives.

– Cons: It may be a bit more expensive than the gFOBT.

The Importance of Regular Testing

Regular testing for colorectal cancer is essential, mainly if you’re over 50 when the risk of developing the disease increases. Screening should start even earlier if you have a family medical record of colorectal cancer or polyps. Bowel test kits are an effective, convenient way to screen for colorectal cancer regularly. By detecting the presence of blood in your stool, these kits can catch potential signs of cancer before symptoms appear. If detected early, colorectal cancer is highly treatable.

Preparation and Tips for Bowel Test Kits

Successfully using a bowel test kit starts with proper preparation and following a few helpful tips:

  • Pre-test Instructions and Dietary Restrictions: For the gFOBT, you may need to avoid certain foods and medications that can interfere with the test, such as red meat, vitamin C supplements, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. The FIT has fewer dietary restrictions, making it more convenient for many people.
  • Ensuring Proper Sample Collection: Collect the stool sample according to the instructions provided with the kit. Use the applicator or brush to collect a small amount of stool and apply it to the testing card or tube. Incorrect sample collection can affect the accuracy of the results.
  • Common Challenges and How to Overcome Them: One common challenge is discomfort or embarrassment in dealing with stool samples. Remember, though, that this is a vital step for your health. The process is handled as privately and cleanly as possible with the kits.
  • Tips for Accurate and Reliable Test Results: Follow the instructions provided closely. Ensure the sample is properly sealed before sending it off to avoid contamination. Be sure to send your sample back to the lab.

Interpreting and Responding to Test Results

No blood was detected in your stool sample if your test returns negative. However, continue regular screenings as recommended by your doctor.

  • Positive Result: A positive result doesn’t necessarily mean you have cancer. It indicates that blood was found in the stool, possibly due to various reasons, including polyps, hemorrhoids, or minor gastrointestinal bleeding.
  • False Result: False positives occur when the test detects blood in the stool but no cancer or polyps are present. False negatives, on the other hand, occur when the test does not detect blood, even though cancer or polyps are present. This is why regular screening and sometimes repeated testing are essential.

You should contact your healthcare provider for further evaluation if you get a positive result. This usually involves a colonoscopy to identify the source of bleeding. If you notice changes in bowel habits, abdominal pain, or unexplained weight loss, you should also seek medical advice, even if your test results are negative.

Other Preventive Measures

While regular screening is essential, it’s just one part of the prevention puzzle. Here are a few more things you can do to reduce your risk of colorectal cancer:

  • Healthy Eating: A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains has been linked to a reduced risk of colorectal cancer.
  • Regular Exercise: Regular physical activity can lower your risk of colorectal cancer.
  • Limiting Alcohol and Avoiding Smoking: Both excessive alcohol and smoking have been linked to an increased risk of colorectal cancer.
  • Maintain a Healthy Weight: Being overweight or obese increases your risk of colorectal cancer.

Factors to Consider When Selecting a Bowel Test Kit

When selecting a bowel test kit, consider the following factors:

  • Sensitivity

This is a crucial measure of a bowel test kit’s ability to identify individuals with the disease accurately. A kit with higher sensitivity is generally preferred because it has a reduced likelihood of missing cases, thus providing a more reliable screening tool. In colorectal cancer, high sensitivity is crucial because early detection significantly improves prognosis and treatment outcomes.

  • Specificity

This important metric measures the test’s ability to correctly identify individuals without the disease. A test kit with high specificity is particularly valuable as it will correctly identify those individuals who don’t have the disease, thereby reducing the incidence of anxiety-provoking false-positive results. This specificity helps avoid unnecessary follow-up procedures or treatments, contributing to more efficient healthcare provision.

  • Ease of Use

Bowel test kits should be straightforward to use, from sample collection to packaging and dispatch. This ensures that users can collect the stool sample correctly, which is vital in improving the accuracy of results. A kit that’s easy to use reduces user errors, thereby providing more reliable results and a better overall user experience.

  • Cost

The price of bowel test kits can vary significantly among different brands and types. It’s essential to choose a kit that fits within your budget and meets your health needs without compromising on quality. Remember that a bowel test kit costs a small investment compared to the potential cost of late-stage cancer treatment, making it a wise expenditure for your health.

  • Professional Guidance

Consulting professionals is crucial. Your doctor or pharmacist can provide valuable advice when choosing a bowel test kit. They can consider your medical history, risk factors, and preferences to recommend the most suitable kit. Don’t hesitate to ask questions about the kit’s use, accuracy, reliability, and any concerns you may have.

When to Consult a Doctor

Even if you’re using bowel test kits regularly, it’s important to consult your doctor if you notice any changes in your bowel habits or other symptoms like persistent abdominal discomfort, unexplained weight loss, or weakness and fatigue. These could be signs of colorectal cancer or other digestive health issues that need medical attention. Bowel test kits are a helpful tool for early detection. However, they’re not a replacement for professional medical advice and examinations.


There’s no doubt that bowel test kits are an essential tool in the early detection of colorectal cancer. They’re convenient, simple to use, and can save lives by detecting signs of cancer early. Combined with a healthy lifestyle and regular physical check-ups, these kits can help ensure your colorectal health is in shape. Remember, the best defence against any form of cancer is early detection. Don’t wait until it’s too late. In the end, knowledge is power; hopefully, this guide has empowered you to understand that you need to take your health into your hands. After all, it’s your health and deserves your utmost attention.

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