Open Journal of Gastroenterology, 2013, 3, 298-302 OJGas Published Online October 2013 (
Rectal bleeding in adults over 20 y ears: Endoscopic
investigations and results in current hospital
practices in Yaoundé, Cameroon
Firmin Ankouane Andoulo1, Dominique Noah Noah2*, Roger Djapa1, Michele Tagni Sartre3,
Elie Claude Ndjitoyap Ndam4, Kathleen Ngu Blacket1
1CHU Yaounde, Department of Internal Medicine and Specialties, Faculty of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, University of
Yaounde I, Yaounde, Cameroon
2Yaounde Central Hospital, Department of Internal Medicine, Faculty of Medicine and Pharmaceuticals Sciences, University of
Douala, Douala, Cameroon
3La Cathédrale Medical Centre, Yaounde, Cameroon
4Yaounde General Hospital, Department of Internal Medicine and Specialties, Faculty of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Uni-
versity of Yaounde I, Yaounde, Cameroon
Email: *
Received 25 July 2013; revised 29 August 2013; accepted 12 September 2013
Copyright © 2013 Firmin Ankouane Andoulo et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribu-
tion License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly
Introduction: In order to identify the modes of inves-
tigation and the results of the assessment of rectal
bleeding in the Cameroonian adult, we retrospective-
ly analysed the records of 287 patients aged above 20
years diagnosed with rectal bleeding with the aim to
know the prescription patterns according to age, the
diagnostic performance of tests and the results. Me-
thodology: Between the 1st of January 2009 and the
30th of June 2010, we examined patients at the Uni-
versity Teaching Hospital and the “La Cathédrale”
Medical Centre in Yaounde. Age, sex, endoscopic
tests and results were evaluated. Results: 287 proto-
cols met our selection criteria, sex ratio (M/F) 2.4/1,
median age 46 years interquartile range [36 , 55 ]. N o r-
mal tests were 57 (19.2%). Main lesions: haemorrhoids
(42.4% CI95 36.7 - 48.3), colorectal cancer (10.8%
CI95 7.5 - 14.9), anal fissure (8.8% CI95 5.8 - 12.6)
and colorectal polyps (8.4% CI95 5.5 - 12.2). The pre-
valence of significant lesions (polyps and cancer) re-
corded 7% for those under age 40. 20.5% in those
were between 40 - 50 years, and 28.9% for those over
50 years. For anoscopies, 44.4% were under 40 years,
39.3% of cases of sigmoidoscopy affected those be-
tween 40 - 50 years and colonoscopy affected 54% of
those over 50 years. For the diagnostic yield, 26.2%
had a significant lesion for flexible sigmoidoscopy and
only 16.7% and 1.6% for colonoscopy and anoscopy
respectively. Conclusion: The study shows that ano-
scopy and sigmoidoscopy are the main initial tests
conducted in Cameroon in the assessment of rectal
bleeding in adults of less than 50 years and they are
quite sufficient. Haemorrhoids and colorectal cancer
are the main pathologies.
Keywords: Rectal Bleeding; Colon Polyps; Colorectal
Cancer; Sigmoidoscopy; Colonoscopy; Cameroon
Rectal bleeding accounts for 20% of gastrointestinal
bleeding. It is equal to the most common detection mode
for lower gastrointestinal bleeding especially in the eld-
erly [1]. Several studies have been conducted in order to
know what mode of investigation is appropriate depend-
ing on the age of the patients, the risk of colorectal can-
cer and the clinical presentation mode [2-4]. Even though
colonoscopy is unanimously recommended for patients
aged 50 and above in the assessment of rectal bleeding
[5], there seem to be no consensus guidelines on how to
deal with rectal bleeding in young patients under the age
of 50 [1,3,6,7].
In sub-Saharan Africa and more specifically Camer-
oon, few studies have focused on the topic and there is
no consensus [1,8,9].
We sought to know, through a retrospective study,
which investigation modes existed in our context and the
*Corresponding author.
F. A. Andoulo et al. / Open Journal of Gastroenterology 3 (2013) 298-302 299
results found while reviewing cases of the rectal bleeding
following the patients’ ages, especially in the diagnosis
of significant lesions such as colorectal polyps and colo-
rectal cancer.
We conducted a retrospective study on the medical his-
tory of all patients aged 20 and above who had carried
out an endoscopic assessment for rectal bleeding in
Yaounde, Cameroon, from 1st January 2009 to 30th June
2010. These were patients of the University Teaching
Hospital (CHU) Yaounde and La Cathédrale Medical
Centre Yaoundé (CMC). Investigative tests used were
anoscopy, flexible sigmoidoscopy and colonoscopy.
The tests which were excluded were colonoscopies
with poor preparation, sigmoidoscopies with poor prepa-
ration, protocols indicating the diagnosis of a rectal tu-
mor palpable on rectal examination, the examination of
patients below 20 years and incomplete file protocols for
the analysis of variables. Only one test was administered
per patient during the study.
Variables recorded were as follows: demographic cha-
racteristics (age, gender), the types of tests required (ano-
scopy, flexible sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy) and test re-
sults (normal or presence of a colorectal lesion).
Data was entered and analyzed using the French ver-
sion of Epi Info 6.04 software and Excel 2007. For quan-
titative variables, the means, standard deviations, medi-
ans and interquartile ranges (IQR) were calculated. Pro-
portions were set for qualitative variables together with
their confidence intervals at 95% (95% CI).
To examine the relationship between two discrete
variables, we used the Pearson’s χ2 test using the Yates’
correction and Fisher’s exact test for reduced samples,
for an accepted significance level of 5%.
3.1. Sample Population (Table 1)
During the study period, a total of 312 protocols for en-
doscopic tests carried out in adult patients in rectal blee-
ding records were analysed. Two hundred and ninety-
seven (95.2%) protocols sampled met our inclusion cri-
teria. Of all the patients, 100 (33.7%) were under 40
years, 83 (27.9%) were between 40 and 50 years and 114
(38.4%) were above 50 years of age. In terms of gender,
there were 209 (70.4%) men and 88 (29.6%) women
with an M/F sex ratio of 2:4. The average age was 46
years IQR [36 years, 55 years] and the modal age was 55
As for the tests conducted, 124 (41.7%) tests were
anoscopies, 84 (28.3%) were flexible sigmoidoscopies
and 89 (30%) took colonoscopy tests. Of these tests, 55
(44.4%) anoscopies concerned patients under 40 years,
33 (39.3%) flexible sigmoidoscopies involved patients
aged between 40 - 50 years and 48 (54%) colonoscopies
were done on patients over 50 years.
3.2. Results of Endoscopies in the Assessment of
Rectal Bleeding in the Cameroonian Adult
(Table 2)
The results were normal in 57 (19.2%) tests. The pre-
dominant lesions were haemorrhoids with 126 cases
(42.4%, 95% CI: 36.7 to 48.3), followed by colorectal
cancer, 32 cases (10.8%, 95% CI 7.5 to 14, 9), anal fis-
sures recorded 26 cases (8.8%, 95% CI 5.8 to 12.6) and
colorectal polyps 25 cases (8.4%, 95% CI 5.5 to 12.2).
Exceptionally, colitis recorded 12 cases (4.0%, 95% CI
2.1 to 7.0), colonic diverticula 11 cases (3.7%, 95% CI
1.1 to 6.5), rectal ulcers 6 cases (2%, 95% CI: 0.7 - 4.3)
and rectal varices 1 case (0.3%, 95% CI: 0.0 - 1.9).
3.3. The Prevalence of Significant Lesions
According to the Ages of Patients with
Rectal Bleeding (Table 3)
In patients below 40 years, 7 (7%) significant lesions
were found (including 3 (3%) colorectal cancers and 4
Table 1. Distribution of tests according to age groups in the
assessment of rectal bleeding in Cameroonian adults.
(n = 124)
(n = 84)
(n = 89)
(n = 297)
Workforce by age, n (%)
˂40 years old100 (33.7)55 (44.4) 22 (26.2) 23 (25.8)
40 - 50 years83 (27.9)32 (25.8) 33 (39.3) 18 (20.2)
>50 years 114 (38.4)37 (29.8) 29 (34.5) 48 (54)
Table 2. Prevalence of colorectal lesions found in reports on
rectal bleeding by endoscopy in Cameroonian adults (n = 297).
Results Employees (Percentage) Confidence
interval 95%
Angiodysplasia 1 0.3 0.0 - 1.9
Cancer 32 10.8 7.5 to 14.9
Colitis 12 4.0 2.1 to 7.0
Diverticulum 11 3.7 1.1 to 6.5
Anal fissure 26 8.8 5.8 to 12.6
Haemorrhoids 126 42.4 36.7 to 48.3
Colonic polyps 25 8.4 5.5 to 12.2
Solitary rectal ulcer6 2.0 0.7 - 4.3
Rectal varices 1 0.3 0.0 - 1.9
Normal 57 19.2 14.9 - 24.1
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. OPEN ACCESS
F. A. Andoulo et al. / Open Journal of Gastroenterology 3 (2013) 298-302
polyps (4%) colorectal polyps) in patients aged between
40 - 50 years, 17 (20.5%) significant lesions were found
(including 10 (12.0%) colorectal cancers and 7 (8.4%)
colorectal polyps) and in patients over 50 years, 33
(28.9%) significant lesions were found (including 19
(16.7%) colorectal cancers and 14 (12.3%) colorectal
polyps). In the univariate analysis, significant lesions
commoner in patients aged above 50 years (Relative
Risk: 2.21, 95% CI: 1.38 to 3.53, p = 0.0007).
3.4. Contribution of Endoscopy in the Diagnosis
of Significant Lesions in Adult Patients with
Rectal Bleeding (Table 4)
Significant lesions were detected in 33 (16.7%) patients
(17 (19.1%) colorectal cancers and 16 (17.8%) colorectal
polyps) with rectal bleeding using colonoscopy. Flexible
sigmoidoscopy helped in detecting significant lesions in
22 (26.2%) patients (including 14 (16.7%) colorectal
cancers and 8 (9.5%) colorectal polyps). Finally, sig-
nificant lesions were detected by anoscopy in 2 (1.6%)
patients (including 1 (0.8%) colorectal cancers and 01
(0.8%) colorectal polyp). In the univariate analysis, the
diagnosis of significant lesions was strongly connected to
colonoscopy compared with other endoscopic tests (Re-
lative Risk: 3.21, 95% CI 2.02 to 5.11), p < 105).
Colonoscopy is considered the best endoscopic method
in assessing and managing rectal bleeding [4,10,11]. To-
day, there are no consensus guidelines on its formal in-
Table 3. Prevalence of significant lesions according to patients’
age groups reports on rectal lesions in the Cameroonian adult.
Age group
<40 years
(n = 100)
40 - 50 years
(n = 83)
>50 years
(n = 114)
Significant lesions, n (%) 7(7) 17 (20.5) 33 (28.9)
Colorectal cancer, n (%) 3 (3) 10 (12.0) 19 (16.7)
Colorectal polyps, n (%) 4 (4) 7 (8.4) 14 (12.3)
Table 4. Prevalence of significant lesions according to endo-
scopy in the assessment of rectal lesions in the Cameroonian
Endoscopic tests
(n = 124)
(n = 84)
(n = 89)
Significant lesions, n (%) 2 (1.6) 22 (26.2) 33 (37.1)
Colorectal cancer, n (%) 1 (0.8) 14 (16.7) 17 (19.1)
Colorectal polyps, n (%) 1 (0.8) 8 (9.5) 16 (17.8)
dication in patients under 40 years who suffer from rectal
bleeding [3,6,10]. Bhargava et al. [12] further argued
that the predominant lesions in rectal bleeding cases in
tropical countries and the tests conducted were different
from those reported in Western countries. The study’s
aim was to analyse test prescription practices in the
process of diagnosing rectal bleeding in the Cameroonian
adult, taking into account age, and to report the results of
these study, and most especially, significant lesions. We
observed that colonoscopy was the second review after
Anoscopy, prescribed in our community, especially in
patients over 50 years. In patients less than 40 years,
anoscopy was the first test used to investigate rectal
bleeding and in patients between 40 - 50 years, flexible
sigmoidoscopy was the first-line examination. Haemor-
rhoids (42.4%), colorectal cancer (10.8%), anal fissure
(8.8%) and colorectal polyps (8.4%) were the predomi-
nant lesions. Significant lesions, particularly colorectal
cancer were common in patients above 50 years.
The specificity of rectal bleeding in our country is
twofold. First, it is assumed in our context that haemor-
rhoidal disease cannot be treated by way of modern me
dicine, but only through traditional medicine. Also, when
people suspect that they may be suffering from amoebic
colitis caused by rectal bleeding they resort to self-me-
dication using metronidazole and this is common prac-
tice among the population. This explains why patients
arrive too late at the hospital and in fewer numbers. This
peculiarity may have had an impact on our results, espe-
cially in the prevalence of colorectal cancer. The alarm
symptoms that we did not identify in this work could be
the reasons that led our patients to consult. This is a ret-
rospective study and we could have excluded patients
with alarm symptoms so as to avoid selection bias. How-
ever, the study as far as we know is the first in our coun-
try. It provides an overview of the medical prescriptions
in case of rectal bleeding. The legal framework for pre-
scribing examinations is not observed in Cameroon.
Thus, the traditional practitioner, paramedics, general
practitioners and other specialists besides gastroentero-
logist may prescribe an investigation test.
The incidence of rectal bleeding increases with age
and corresponds with an increasing frequency of gastro-
intestinal diseases and this is specific to each region. In
our study, it was observed that patients above 50 years
(38.4%) and those under 40 years (33.7%) were the most
affected. We did not find any justification for this. On
the contrary, comorbidity and some medications such as
NSAIDs and anticoagulants are known to account for the
lower gastrointestinal bleeding in the elderly. The main
lesions found in our study were different, apart from hae-
morrhoids, from those reported in some tropical coun-
tries [8,9,12]. Rather, they were similar to those reported
by Mbengué et al. [1] in Dakar, Senegal. Djibril et al. [8]
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. OPEN ACCESS
F. A. Andoulo et al. / Open Journal of Gastroenterology 3 (2013) 298-302 301
in Lome, Togo limited their study to subjects aged be-
tween 24 - 45 years; individuals aged 50 and above were
excluded. These subjects are known to be most affected
by colorectal cancer [13] cancer which could explain the
low prevalence (5.88%) of colorectal cancer in this series
compared to ours. Also, Assi et al. [9] in Abidjan, Côte
d’Ivoire, reported a prevalence of colorectal cancer of
5.53% among adult subjects with rectal bleeding using
colonoscopy as a diagnostic test. The difference com-
pared to our series would be based on the type of diag-
nostic tests. It is important to note the high prevalence of
colorectal cancer in our study and in that of Mbengué et
al. [1] of 10.8% and 11.9% respectively. Changes in our
eating habits have been observed in recent years, initially
predominantly vegetarian and meat-rich today may
partly explain these results.
The prevalence of significant lesions in patients 40 -
50 years and in patients over 50 years was high, whereas
in patients below 40 years, it was low. These results are
consistent with those contained in the literature and es-
pecially those in the work of Lewis et al. [6] who re-
ported similar results in a series of patients under 50
years with rectal bleeding. During the study and that of
Lewis et al. [6] the warning signs which are changing
bowel habits, iron deficiency anaemia and weight loss,
these signs are known to have a high positive predictive
value [14-16] in diagnosing colorectal cancer in a patient
with signs of rectal bleeding which were not mentioned.
The diverticular bleeding is a common cause of rectal
bleeding in the West [17]. In sub-Saharan Africa, diver-
ticular disease is a rare disease [18] and diverticular
bleeding is rarely described [19]. The 3.7% prevalence
rate is therefore in accordance with these arguments.
Bleeding from rectal ulcer seemed relatively frequent
compared to the literature [20,21]. Lin et al. [21] have
identified comorbid conditions associated with this dis-
ease including diabetes, bed-rest, renal failure, hypogly-
caemia albumin, cerebrovascular accidents, respiratory
failure and atherosclerosis. None of these factors was re-
ported in our series. Their cause is not mechanical.
The diagnostic value for significant lesions, particu-
larly colorectal cancer was higher with flexible sigmoi-
doscopy (26.2%) for lesions of the distal segment of the
colon. This is not a new observation [11,22,23]. We
noted that 65.5% of flexible sigmoidoscopy was per-
formed in patients less than 50 years. This test is consid-
ered sufficient in the assessment of rectal bleeding with-
out alarming symptoms in patients less than 50 years by
some authors which is due to the preferential localization
of significant lesions in the distal colon in this age group
on the one hand [2-4,11,24], but also due to a low preva-
lence of significant lesions, particularly colorectal cancer
in this age group [6,16,25,26]. Marderstein et al. [10] in
a study of simple rectal bleeding emphasised that the
diagnostic yield of colonoscopy was low in indicating
this. The authors added that flexible sigmoidoscopy was
sufficient to exclude significant injury if other formal
indicators for colonoscopy were not associated. We drew
three arguments from the findings in relation to our study:
1) that flexible sigmoidoscopy was sufficient in the as-
sessment of our patients under 50 years, 2) that the per-
formance of this test was high and 3) that our patients
probably had warning signs associated with rectal bleed-
ing to explain the high frequency of significant lesions in
the age group of those below 50 years (27.5%). Late ar-
rival to the hospital as already mentioned is a contribut-
ing factor.
Colonoscopy in the assessment of rectal bleeding
without warning signs has a low yield according to some
authors [10,14,23] and is costly for a patient who has no
health insurance. In Cameroon, the price of a colono-
scopy is three times that of sigmoidoscopy. Colonoscopy
was the second examination prescribed in our study
(30%), especially in patients over 50 years. It is recom-
mended by most published guidelines and EPAGE II
criteria (available at in screening
for colorectal cancer in patients at high risk of colorectal
cancer [27] and in subjects aged above 50 years. Risk
factors for colorectal cancer and alarm symptoms were
not identified in this study. However, the contribution of
colonoscopy was instrumental in the diagnosis of sig-
nificant lesions. Late arrivals at hospitals explain this
The absence of a legal framework and a consensus on the
follow-up of rectal bleeding on the one hand and the tra-
ditional methods of individuals in the face of rectal blee-
ding on the other hand are major obstacles in assisting
the patient. However, the requirements of investigative
tests do not really deviate from what is recommended in
several publications in the existing literature. Test results
need to be reported taking into account the characteris-
tics of rectal bleeding and its associated warning signs.
The high cost of testing and the lack of health coverage
oblige one to adopt a systematic approach focusing on
anoscopy and sigmoidoscopy such as initial tests for young
patients with no warning signs and colonoscopy for eld-
erly patients or those at the risk of colorectal cancer.
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