Many patients are aware that blood in the stool is indicative of an underlying health issue. Whether it’s a GI problem, hemorrhoids, or another health concern, blood in the stool means it’s time to see a doctor for evaluation; however, it’s not typically cause for alarm. Normal blood in fecal matter is generally not life-threatening, but scientists have discovered a new type of “invisible” blood in the stool that may be concerning. Read on to learn about what this “invisible” blood is associated with, and how you can get yourself tested for it.
Tests for an “Invisible” Blood
There are several ways to test for typical fecal blood in the stool. Many times, patients are alerted to the presence of blood when they catch a glimpse of it in the toilet or notice it on the seat after using the bathroom. “Invisible” blood is a little bit harder to test, but physicians can look for it using the fecal occult blood test, known as FOBT. This test is not a new one–in fact, it’s been widely used by physicians for years in older patients who need bowel cancer screening or to check for polyps. It is good news for patients that the FOBT is also successfully predictive at targeting unseen fecal blood.
Links and Discovery
Researchers believed a correlation existed between fecal blood and life expectancy for several years. Based on this belief, scientists decided to use the FOBT test and track patient outcomes and life expectancies. The results were surprising: the research followed over 131,000 patients over the course of 16 years. The patients’ survival and life expectancy were tracked during this period, with results being tallied in 2016. Doctors discovered that those with a positive FOBT test were eight times more likely to die of bowel cancer or similar problems than patients with a negative FOBT.
There were links between occult blood in the stool and other problems, however. Scientists claim that those with a positive FOBT had a 58 percent greater chance of dying from other diseases, ranging from everything from circulatory disease to different types of cancer. Researchers do admit that there are other factors strongly correlated with early death and risk of disease, including advanced age, male gender, and deprivation levels. However, the positive FOBT was well linked with premature death across all statistics.
What Does This Mean?
There are preventative measures patients can take when it comes to “seen” blood in the stool–for instance, if you suffer from hemorrhoids, there are lifestyle changes you can make to arrest symptoms and clear the blood out of the stool.
Besides exercise and leading a healthy lifestyle, the best thing for you to do is to speak with your GI doctor or physician about colorectal cancer screenings by age 45. Talk to your doctor about “invisible” blood in the stool along with your first colorectal cancer screening. Your gastroenterologist will have some helpful advice on how to prevent colorectal cancer from occurring (such as minimizing intake of red meat). As you approach the ages of 45-50, try to maintain a healthy lifestyle to help prevent digestive issues and instances of colorectal cancer and disease. If you need a screening colonoscopy or are concerned about vague abdominal symptoms, regardless of age, make an appointment today with Dr. Sameer Islam, MD. Our team is here to help you live your healthiest and best life.