Prevalence of self-reported abdominal symptoms among 50–74-years-old men and women eligible for colorectal cancer screening –a cross-sectional study

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Background: Screening is defined as the identification of unrecognized disease in an apparently healthy population. Symptomatic individuals are recommended to contact a physician instead of participating in screening. However, in colorectal cancer (CRC) screening this approach may be problematic as abdominal symptoms are nonspecific. This study aimed at identifying the prevalence of self-reported abdominal symptoms among screening-eligible men and women aged 50–74 years. Methods: This cross-sectional survey study included 11,537 individuals aged 50–74 years invited for CRC screening from 9 to 23 September 2019. Descriptive statistics of responders experiencing alarm symptoms of CRC, Low Anterior Resection Syndrome Score (LARS) and the Patient Assessment of Constipation-Symptoms (PAC-SYM) were derived. The association between abdominal symptoms and demographic and socioeconomic variables were estimated by prevalence ratio (PR) using a Poisson regression model with robust variance. Results: A total of 5488 respondents were included. The respondents were more likely women, of older age, Danish, cohabiting and had higher education and income level compared to non-respondents. Abdominal pain more than once a week was experienced by 12.0% of the respondents. Of these, 70.8% had been experiencing this symptom for >1 month. Fresh blood in the stool was experienced by 0.7% and of these 82.1% for >1 month. About one third of those experiencing alarm symptoms more than once a week for >1 month had not consulted a doctor. A total of 64.1% of the respondents had no LARS, 21.7% had minor LARS and 14.2% had major LARS. The median PAC-SYM score was 0.33 (Interquartile range (IQR): 0.17;0.75), the median abdominal score was 0.50 (IQR: 0.00;1.00), median rectal score 0.00 (IQR:0.00;0.33) and median stool score 0.40 (IQR: 0.00;0.80). Men and those aged 65–74 reported less symptoms than women and those aged 50–64 years, respectively. Conclusions: This study illustrated that abdominal symptoms were frequent among screening-eligible men and women. This should be taken into account when implementing and improving CRC screening strategies. A concerning high number of the respondents experiencing alarm symptoms had not consulted a doctor. This calls for attention to abdominal symptoms in general and how those with abdominal symptoms should participate in CRC screening.

Original languageEnglish
Article number910
JournalBMC Cancer
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s).

    Research areas

  • Abdominal symptoms, Low anterior resection syndrome score (LARS), Mass screening, Patient assessment of constipation-symptoms (PAC-SYM), Prevalence, VALIDATION, HEALTH, Age Factors, Cross-Sectional Studies, Early Detection of Cancer, Humans, Middle Aged, Self Report, Male, Socioeconomic Factors, Colorectal Neoplasms/diagnosis, Mass Screening, Public Health Surveillance, Female, Aged

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