Objective  Colorectal cancer (CRC) screening aims to detect asymptomatic disease and thus provide the opportunity for early diagnosis and treatment. This study assesses the prevalence of significant symptoms in patients found to have CRC detected through the NHS National Bowel Cancer Screening Programme (NHS NBCSP) pilots.

Method  All patients in the NHS NBCSP pilots with a positive faecal occult blood completed a standardized symptomatology questionnaire before colonoscopy. This data was entered into the NHS BCS pilot database, data from the English arm has been analysed retrospectively.

Results  There were 200 patients diagnosed with colorectal cancer. Of these, 28.5% were Dukes A, 35% Dukes B, 31% Dukes C1 and 5.5% Dukes C2. Some 81.5% reported experiencing GI symptoms. Symptoms considered significant included rectal bleeding, change in bowel habit, tenesmus and peri-anal discomfort, reported in 47.7%, 24%%, 36.5% and 15.5% of patients respectively. In addition to this, 27% reported urgency, 20.5% reported abdominal pain and 29% reported upper GI symptoms.

Discussion  This data suggests a high prevalence of significant symptoms amongst patients with screening-detected CRC. It is possible that these patients would have presented via routine colorectal services if the awareness of symptoms of colorectal cancer were increased.