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Dis Colon Rectum. 1987 Nov;30(11):839-43.

Screening for colorectal neoplasms. A comparison of the fecal occult blood test and endoscopic examination.

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Gastrointestinal Surgery Research Unit, Yale University School of Medicine, West Haven, Connecticut.


Testing for occult blood in stool is used frequently as a screening technique for colorectal carcinomas, but no study has ever shown an improved survival rate for colorectal carcinoma in patients screened by this method. Consequently, the authors have prospectively compared the sensitivity of endoscopy and occult blood testing in finding colorectal neoplasms. During the first year of the Surgical Endoscopy Service, 585 patients underwent sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy. Seventy-nine patients (13.5 percent) were excluded from the study because their occult blood status was not recorded. Patients averaged 63 + 10 years of age and 98 percent were men. Of the 348 patients with occult blood negative stools 55.5 percent underwent colonoscopy and 44.5 percent underwent sigmoidoscopy. Polyps were found in 25.6 percent of these patients, colorectal carcinomas in 2.6 percent, and diverticulosis 36.2 percent. Of the 158 patients with occult blood positive stool, 76.5 percent underwent colonoscopy and 23.4 percent underwent sigmoidoscopy. Polyps were discovered in 39.0 percent of these patients, colorectal carcinomas in 10.1 percent, and diverticulosis in 43.0 percent. Thus, the occult blood test was negative in 59 percent of patients with polyps and 36 percent with colorectal cancers. These data indicate that lower gastrointestinal endoscopy is superior to occult blood testing in detecting colorectal neoplasms. These results further suggest that using the occult blood test as a screening test for colorectal neoplasms will result in a significant number of these lesions being missed at an early curable stage.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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