Faecal occult blood testing and colonoscopy in the surveillance of subjects at high risk of colorectal neoplasia

Br J Surg. 1995 Mar;82(3):318-20. doi: 10.1002/bjs.1800820310.


Colonoscopy is the established method of surveillance of subjects at high risk of developing colorectal neoplasia but the procedure is expensive, time consuming and occasionally hazardous. Faecal occult blood tests can be prepared at home and are cheap, simple and safe. Hemeselect is an immunological faecal occult blood test that is more sensitive for colorectal cancer than Haemoccult. The aim of this study was to determine the sensitivity of the Hemeselect test for asymptomatic colorectal neoplasia in subjects at high risk of the disease who were undergoing colonoscopy, thus assessing its suitability as an alternative means of screening high-risk groups. A total of 919 asymptomatic subjects were asked to complete Hemeselect tests. These were completed satisfactorily by 808 individuals (compliance rate 88 per cent) and were positive in 164 patients (20 per cent). At colonoscopy 11 cancers were detected in ten patients (seven Hemeselect positive) and 36 (16 Hemeselect positive) had at least one adenoma 1 cm or more in diameter. The test sensitivites of Hemeselect for carcinoma and large (1 cm or more) adenomas were 70 and 44 per cent respectively. In a subset of 417 subjects who also completed Haemoccult tests, the sensitivities were 33 and 18 per cent. Hemeselect specificity is 88 per cent compared with 98 per cent for Haemoccult. While the sensitivity of Hemeselect is higher than that of Haemoccult, it is still insufficient to replace colonoscopy in high-risk groups.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Colonoscopy
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occult Blood*
  • Risk Factors
  • Sensitivity and Specificity