Lower gastrointestinal symptoms are prevalent among individuals colonoscoped within the Bowel Cancer Screening Programme

Colorectal Disease, 05/24/2012

A large proportion of individuals colonoscoped in the bowel cancer screening programme (BCSP) reported symptoms predating screening. Their prevalence did not differ significantly between cancer and non–cancer diagnoses. The majority had not consulted their GP. Health promotion regarding the importance of lower gastrointestinal (LGI) symptoms and a risk assessment tool to help select those needing urgent specialist assessment are required.


  • Data were collected on all undergoing clinic assessment and colonoscopy.
  • Symptoms were categorised as altered bowel habit (ABH), rectal bleeding (RB), abdominal pain (AP), unexplained weight loss (UWL).


  • Symptoms were present in 65.1% (492 /756), 64.4% (431/669) of those with a non–cancer diagnosis and in 70.1% (61/87) with cancer.
  • Among those with a non–cancer diagnosis, symptoms were ABH in 52% (224/431), RB in 81.4% (351/431), AP in 15.3% (66/431), UWL in 3.0% (13/431).
  • In those with cancer symptoms were ABH in 33.3% (29/87), RB in 55.2% (48/87), AP in 11.5% (10/87).
  • There was no significant difference in the prevalence of symptoms in those with a cancer or non–cancer diagnosis.
  • A total of 34.2% (157/459) individuals with symptoms had consulted their GP, 28.1% (16/57) of those with cancer and 35.1% (141/402) without.

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