Bowel Screening

Doing the Faecal Occult Blood test at home

Almost all the people we talked to had done at least one set of Faecal Occult Blood tests (FOBt). Most thought the instructions with the test kit were excellent (see The instructions for using the FOBt kit) and that any effort, or embarrassment, involved in doing the test was well worth it.

People described how they managed to collect samples of their motion to smear onto the test card windows (small rectangles). Most people found it quite easy to do the test - it involved smearing only a very small amount of the stool on the card.

Many people used several thicknesses of toilet paper to catch their motions before they hit the water in the toilet pan. A few people used rubber or disposable gloves when collecting the stool samples. Others said that taking the sample was not so different from wiping their children's bottoms.

One man found it easier to put newspaper on the floor in the bathroom, and strips of toilet paper on top of that, so that he could collect his bowel motion in that way.

Some people found it easier to use kitchen paper towels instead of toilet paper because it was stronger and 'more resilient'. Others used a container, such as a margarine pot, or a fruit basket from the supermarket, to catch their motions.

One man used a supermarket bag and put that inside the toilet to catch his motion. He found it physically uncomfortable having to lean over the toilet to deal with his bowel motions. He said the smell made him feel sick.

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Most people we talked to found the test relatively easy, but a few found it more difficult. One man mistakenly collected all the six stool samples from one motion at the same time. A woman said that the first time she tried to do the test was a “complete disaster” because she wasn't sure how much of the motion she was supposed to smear onto the card and because the motion fell into the pan.

Several people worried that those with disabilities would find the test a bit difficult. One woman with rheumatoid arthritis found it a bit painful to collect the samples, but she managed it.

A man who is very sensitive about dealing with bodily functions was not sure that he could face doing the test. His wife - who is a nurse and has a 'better stomach' than he has - helped him with the sample. Another man and his wife did their tests at the same time - she 'only had to perform and leave the room' and he would then sort it out for her.

Another man worried because he was constipated but he managed to do the three motions in the 14 days allowed.


Some people were concerned about putting the samples in the post - one man wondered if there was some kind of law against it and others were worried about it being opened by mistake, or possible hygiene issues. Others commented on the secure foil and plastic wrappings for the kit, which they believed were quite sterile and secure.

It is important to note that no one is excluded from the FOB test because of disability. If people have any difficulties, perhaps due to poor dexterity or poor eyesight, they can contact the help line by calling Freephone 0800 707 6060. Someone will give advice and if necessary help with the FOB test at home. 

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Last reviewed May 2016.

Last updated October 2010.


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