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Fam Pract. 2015 Aug;32(4):387-94. doi: 10.1093/fampra/cmv032. Epub 2015 May 14.

Specific and non-specific symptoms of colorectal cancer and contact to general practice.

Author information

1
Research Unit of General Practice, Department of Public Health, University of Southern, Odense, Denmark. sarasmussen@health.sdu.dk.
2
Research Unit of General Practice, Department of Public Health, University of Southern, Odense, Denmark.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

To improve survival rates for colorectal cancer, referral guidelines have been implemented. First step in the diagnostic process is for the individual to recognize the symptoms and contact his/her general practitioner (GP) for evaluation.

OBJECTIVES:

To determine (i) the prevalence of specific and non-specific symptom experiences indicative of colorectal cancer, (ii) the proportion of subsequent contacts to GPs, (iii) to explore the possible differences in symptom experience and contact to GPs between age and sex.

METHODS:

A nationwide study of 100000 adults, aged 20 years and older, were randomly selected in the general population and invited to participate in an internet-based survey. Items regarding experience of specific and non-specific alarm symptoms of colorectal cancer within the preceding 4 weeks and contact to GP were included.

RESULTS:

A total of 49706 subjects completed the questionnaire. Abdominal pain was the most common specific alarm symptom (19.7%) and tiredness was the most common non-specific symptom (49.8%). The experiences of symptoms were more common among women and more common in the youngest age groups for both sexes. The symptom leading to the highest proportion of GP contacts was rectal bleeding (33.8%). When experiencing any combination of two specific alarm symptoms, the proportion who contacted a GP was less than 50%. The combination of a non-specific and a specific alarm symptom gave rise to the highest proportion of GP contacts.

CONCLUSION:

Although specific and non-specific alarm symptoms of colorectal cancer are common in the general population, the proportion of GP contacts is low.

KEYWORDS:

Alarm symptoms; colorectal cancer; general practice.

PMID:
25977134
DOI:
10.1093/fampra/cmv032
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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