Abdominal symptoms and cancer in the abdomen

This prospective cohort study aimed to examine the associations between abdominal symptoms and subsequent cancer. The study was carried out in primary care practices in Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Belgium, Scotland and the Netherlands. Over a 10 day period, GPs recorded consecutive consultations and made note of patients who presented with abdominal symptoms, additional data on non-specific symptoms and features of the consultation. Data on all cancer diagnoses among study patients were obtained 8 months later. From the 493 GPs who participated, 61,802 patient consultations were recorded, in which 6,264 (10%) reported abdominal symptoms. Malignancy was diagnosed in 511 patients (0.8%). For patients who were diagnosed with a cancer in the abdomen, 69.7% were diagnosed within 180 days after consultation. Three symptoms reached the cancer referral guideline PPV threshold of 3% in England: macroscopic haematuria, rectal bleeding and involuntary weight loss. This study is relevant for real-life consultations in primary care because all investigated symptoms in this study were associated with an abdominal cancer; however, different symptoms were related to cancer in different ways.

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