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Am Surg. 1990 Mar;56(3):119-23.

Evaluation of the occult blood test in screening for colorectal neoplasms. A prospective study using flexible endoscopy.

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Department of Surgery, Yale University School of Medicine, West Haven, Connecticut.


Survival rates from colorectal cancer will rise only when polyps and cancers are found at an earlier, curable stage. Consequently, the purpose of the present study was to compare the yield of colonic neoplasms from flexible sigmoidoscopy and colonoscopy with that from occult blood testing. Results from 474 flexible sigmoidoscopies and 1,115 colonoscopies were prospectively recorded during a four-year study period. Colorectal polyps were found in 111 (23.4%) patients undergoing flexible sigmoidoscopy and 325 (29.1%) patients undergoing colonoscopy. Among the 436 patients with polyps, the occult blood test was negative in 282 (64.7%). Among the 51 patients with colorectal cancers, the occult blood test was negative in 20 (39.1%). Thus, testing for occult blood missed the majority of polyps and a large percentage of the carcinomas. These data indicate that lower gastrointestinal endoscopy is superior to occult blood testing as a screening test for detecting colorectal polyps or cancers. Furthermore, given the high incidence of neoplasia in this patient population, the authors suggest that colonoscopy become the screening test of choice for colorectal cancer.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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