Specific and unspecific gynecological alarm symptoms--prevalence estimates in different age groups: a population-based study

Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand. 2015 Feb;94(2):191-7. doi: 10.1111/aogs.12538. Epub 2014 Nov 28.


Objective: To determine prevalence estimates of gynecological alarm symptoms in different age groups and to describe common patterns of gynecological symptoms.

Design: Web-based cross-sectional survey study.

Setting: Nationwide in Denmark.

Population: A random sample of 51,090 women aged 20 years or above from the general population.

Methods: An internet-based questionnaire study regarding the prevalence estimates of symptom experiences. A total of 18 symptoms of cervical, endometrial and ovarian cancer were selected through an extensive literature search, which included national and international guidelines.

Main outcome measures: Prevalence estimates of self-reported experience of gynecological alarm symptoms within the preceding 4 weeks.

Results: A total of 26,466 women (54.5%) participated in the study. Some 80.3% had experienced at least one of the alarm symptoms within the preceding 4 weeks, and the median number of experienced symptoms was 2 (interquartile range 1-4). The most common symptoms were tiredness (53.0%) and abdominal bloating (36.7%); postmenopausal bleeding (2.3%) and involuntary weight loss (2.8%) were least frequent. Most of the symptoms were more prevalent among younger women, whereas only dyspnea and increased urgency of urination were more frequent among older women. Among younger women, multiple abdominal symptoms often occurred simultaneously and frequently in combination with pelvic pain, whereas older women were more likely to report single symptoms.

Conclusions: Gynecological alarm symptoms are frequent in the general population, mostly among younger women. Older women reported fewer symptoms, and these often appeared as single symptoms.

Keywords: Symptoms; general population; gynecological cancer; self-reported; symptom patterns.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Fatigue / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Genital Diseases, Female / diagnosis*
  • Genital Diseases, Female / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Pelvic Pain / epidemiology
  • Uterine Hemorrhage / epidemiology
  • Weight Loss