We include products we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission. Here’s our process.

Medical News Today only shows you brands and products that we stand behind.

Our team thoroughly researches and evaluates the recommendations we make on our site. To establish that the product manufacturers addressed safety and efficacy standards, we:
  • Evaluate ingredients and composition: Do they have the potential to cause harm?
  • Fact-check all health claims: Do they align with the current body of scientific evidence?
  • Assess the brand: Does it operate with integrity and adhere to industry best practices?
We do the research so you can find trusted products for your health and wellness.
Was this helpful?

A fecal immunochemical test (FIT) is a diagnostic tool that helps screen for colorectal cancer by detecting hidden blood in the stool. The best tests use Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA)-certified labs and provide results quickly.

FIT stands for fecal immunochemical test, which screens for colorectal cancer by checking for hemoglobin, an important protein in red blood cells, in the stool. Blood vessels in colon tumors or polyps may bleed with the passage of stool, but the blood is not always visible to the naked eye. A FIT test uses antibodies to detect hidden blood, known as occult blood, in the stool. A FIT test is one of the two main types of fecal occult blood tests.

Colorectal cancer tends to grow slowly, and detecting precancerous polyps or small lesions helps improve the outlook. Colorectal cancer screening tests, such as a FIT test and a colonoscopy, make early diagnosis possible.

In the United States, colorectal cancer is the fourth most common cancer and the fourth leading cause of cancer-related deaths.

Learn more about colorectal cancer.

What are FIT-DNA tests?

Cologuard offers a FIT-DNA test, which is different from a FIT test because it tests for atypical DNA and blood in the stool.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that people typically have to send a whole stool sample to a lab for this test. It recommends undergoing this test once every 3 years.

Who is at average risk for colon cancer?

The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends those with an average risk of colorectal cancer begin regular screening at the age of 45 years through to 75. Healthcare professionals will help people ages 76–85 years determine a screening schedule according to prior results, health, and life expectancy.

The ACS defines average risk as:

Although anyone can develop this type of cancer, risk factors include:

  • having a personal or family history of colorectal cancer or colorectal polyps
  • having IBS
  • having hereditary colorectal cancer syndromes
  • having obesity or overweight
  • irregular physical activity
  • drinking alcohol
  • smoking
  • eating a less nutritious diet

A FIT test involves collecting a stool sample and sending it to a lab for analysis. No special diet or other prep is necessary.

Each brand will have its own process, so people will need to follow instructions carefully.

Taking a FIT test will typically involve:

  1. securing the collection paper across the toilet bowl rim
  2. making a bowel movement onto the collection paper
  3. inserting an applicator into the stool in different places
  4. securing the applicator in a sample collection tube
  5. putting the sample collection tube in a specimen pouch
  6. mailing the package to a lab, usually in a pre-addressed, prepaid envelope.

A home testing kit includes instructions and a sterile container for the stool sample. Most kits will also include an envelope for mailing the sample to a laboratory.

What does a FIT test feel like?

A FIT test is noninvasive, meaning a person does not need to use or insert anything on or into their body. It is unlikely to feel any more uncomfortable than any other bowel movement. However, collecting a stool sample is often a new experience, and people can feel squeamish or nervous about collecting a sample and taking their test.

People can speak with a doctor for reassurance and guidance if they are very anxious about taking their test.

According to 2020 research, FIT tests have a high accuracy rate for diagnosing colorectal cancer in people with symptoms.

Further research from 2021 suggests that a positive FIT result is better than symptoms when determining which individuals require urgent investigation.

However, according to an older systematic review, some risk factors can cause a false positive or false negative FIT result. This could result in a delayed colorectal cancer diagnosis for those with a false negative or an unnecessary colonoscopy for individuals with a false positive.

This research says those at an increased risk of a false positive or false negative FIT result include those who:

What do FIT results mean?

Once people have completed their test, they will get negative or positive results. They can also be called “normal” or “abnormal.”

A negative result means the test did not detect any blood in the sample. However, a test may occasionally miss the blood or polyps that would indicate colorectal cancer. Healthcare professionals may order another test if a person is still experiencing symptoms.

A positive result means there was blood present in the stool. It is likely that a doctor will recommend a colonoscopy if a person gets a positive result. Colonoscopies can detect and reduce the risk of dying from colon cancer.

An inconclusive test result can mean a person incorrectly collected a sample or there was an issue when the lab tried to test it. As healthcare professionals cannot determine a negative or positive test result, a person needs to repeat the test.

Expert insight

“Different products have different cutoffs for what constitutes a positive test. It is helpful to think of different cutoff levels in terms of sensitivity and specificity. Tests that would be positive at lower levels of hemoglobin (an important protein in red blood cells) per stool sample are considered more sensitive, meaning they are less likely to miss cancer. The trade-off with more sensitive tests is that they may become less specific and pick up on “false positives.”

“For context, with a relatively lower cutoff of 10 micrograms of hemoglobin per gram of feces, the test sensitivity is about 99%. This means that the test will detect 99% of colorectal cancer. But, that doesn’t mean that all positive tests are cancers. This is because specificity is about 90%. This means about 10% of positive tests may be false positive for cancer when a person uses the test as directed.

“In contrast, tests with a higher cutoff for a positive result, such as 20 micrograms of hemoglobin per gram of feces, have a sensitivity of around 74% and a specificity of about 94%. This generally means that these tests would “catch” 74% of colorectal cancers, and about 6% of positive tests may be “false positive” for cancer.

“It is extremely important to recognize that these are large population-based studies, and the numbers above relate to colorectal cancer, and not “precancerous” lesions such as advanced adenomatous polyps.”

— Youssef Soliman, MD, Clinical Assistant Professor, City of Hope

Getting a positive FIT result does not necessarily mean someone has colorectal cancer. Other conditions, such as hemorrhoids, benign polyps, and ulcers, may also cause blood in the stool. Anyone who gets a positive FIT test needs to follow up with a doctor for additional tests, such as a colonoscopy.

Many telehealth companies that sell FIT tests offer follow-up services so a person can discuss their next steps with a healthcare professional.

Medical News Today chooses at-home tests that meet the following criteria:

  • Laboratories: Where possible, MNT selects companies that process test samples in CLIA-certified labs. This means they follow state and federal regulations.
  • Budget: MNT chooses at-home tests that suit a wide range of budgets.
  • Privacy: MNT includes companies that offer robust and transparent privacy measures, such as data protection and discreet packaging.
  • Test result speed: MNT selects companies that inform customers when they will receive their test results and whether they will receive them via email, app, or phone.
  • Further support: MNT will indicate whether a company offers further support, such as a follow-up phone consultation with a doctor to discuss test results.

Medical News Today follows a strict product selection and vetting process. Learn more.

Was this helpful?

FIT tests are available via a healthcare professional. However, several companies offer at-home testing that may be more convenient, faster, and cheaper than going to a doctor’s office.

Here, Medical News Today discusses five at-home tests. Those that require people to send off samples use certified labs to process these and healthcare professionals to review results.

Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information presented is purely research-based and correct at the time of publication.

The following table compares the FIT tests in this article.

Results turnaroundAccepts FSA or HSAPrice
LetsGetChecked2–5 daysyes$89
Everlywell5–7 daysyes$49
LabCorp OnDemand3–4 daysyes$89
Pinnacle Biolabswithin minutesno information available$24.99
Cologuard2 weeksno information availableno information available

People may wish to consider the following when purchasing an at-home test:

  • Results turnaround: Testing companies often provide results within a week. People who are looking for faster test results may prefer to purchase a product with a shorter turnaround time and check whether ordering online offers the quickest turnaround.
  • Insurance: Many at-home test companies do not accept insurance. People may wish to consider whether it would be less expensive to purchase a test out of pocket or go through a doctor’s office and claim it on their insurance.
  • Accessibility: Most at-home tests are available through the manufacturer’s website. However, some tests, such as Cologuard, require people to request a test through a doctor or attend a telemedicine appointment.
  • Price: At-home test prices vary but are often between $24 and $90.

Anyone who receives a positive FIT test result needs to contact a doctor for further evaluation. Although a positive test does not necessarily mean a person has colorectal cancer, a healthcare professional can discuss the next steps.

It is also important to contact a doctor if symptoms that could indicate the disease occur.

Other individuals may wish to undergo testing because they are experiencing symptoms that could indicate colorectal cancer. These include:

People who believe they have an increased risk of this disease may also wish to discuss regular screening with a healthcare professional.

All FIT tests should contain clear instructions and a collection pot for the sample.

If a company offers lab testing, it will likely include a prepaid envelope to send the sample through the post.

Some companies will include instructional videos on how to take a sample on their website.

The Colorectal Cancer Alliance says a colonoscopy is the gold standard in colorectal cancer screening and the most complete screening tool currently available. Additionally, physicians can detect and remove polyps during a colonoscopy, making the procedure preventive and diagnostic.

However, the FIT does have some advantages over a colonoscopy. It does not require any preparation, is less invasive, and is far quicker to complete.

People can discuss which option is best for them with a doctor.

Yes, a FIT test can detect colon polyps, although the sensitivity is lower than for colorectal cancer. This means that it may fewer cases of polyps than colorectal cancer.

A FIT-DNA test can pick up on atypical DNA from either polyps or cancer cells. When these cells mutate, the DNA is often present in the stool.

A person’s insurance may cover their FIT test if they get it from a doctors’ office. However, at-home test kits may not allow customers to pay through their insurane, although many accept HSA and FSA cards.

According to older research, hemorrhoids can cause false positive FIT results. People who have positive test results need to consult a doctor.

A FIT test is a type of colorectal cancer screening. The test detects blood in the stool that may not be visible to the naked eye. The presence of blood indicates a need for further screenings to diagnose the cause of the bleeding. While a positive result does not necessarily mean someone has cancer, early detection and treatment of this disease generally improve their outlook.

Various at-home FIT test kit options are available for people to consider. Individuals can perform these tests at home, often without needing a doctor’s visit.