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Women are ‘mistaking the signs of bladder cancer for cystitis’, experts warn

Lizzie Parry
  • Study shows women are more likely to have advanced forms of the disease
  • Public Health England expert warns symptoms can be similar to urine infections, which are more common among women
  • Common symptoms include blood in urine and pain when urinating

Women are at greater risk of dying from bladder cancer because it is easy to dismiss the signs and symptoms of the disease as a simple urine infection, experts have warned.  New research has revealed female patients are more likely to be diagnosed with the most advanced stage of the disease. In addition, women are more susceptible to rarer forms of the disease.

Public Health England said survival rates for the disease in women are around 10 per cent lower than those of men. Later diagnosis, and suffering rarer forms of the disease were among the possible factors to explain the disparity.

Experts at PHE urged women to ensure they are alert to the signs and symptoms of bladder cancer.
Among the key signs to watch out for are blood in the urine and pain when urinating.

The research, carried out by PHE’s National Cancer Intelligence Network and which will be presented at the Cancer Outcomes Conference in Belfast tomorrow, concludes women are being diagnosed later because:
women have a greater chance of being diagnosed with the most advanced stage of bladder cancer – 30 per cent higher than men

women are more likely to present at hospital as an emergency only to be diagnosed with the disease – one in four diagnoses in women are made this way  women are more likely to have cystectomy or radical radiotherapy treatments – this could be attributed to later diagnosis, experts said women are more likely to have a rare type of bladder cancer – one in four diagnoses are not of the most common typeWomen_have_a_greater_chance_of_being_diagnosed_with_rarer

Every year in the UK, 10,000 people are diagnosed with bladder cancer, and of that half will die from the disease.  In 2013, around 2,500 women in England were diagnosed with bladder cancer, with 1,500 dying from the disease.

Julia Verne, Strategic Public Health Lead of PHE’s National Cancer Intelligence Network said: ‘Generally women have higher survival from cancer so this is an unusual finding.  ‘Urine infections are common in women so bladder cancer can be difficult to spot as the symptoms are relatively similar.

‘Visible blood in pee is the leading indicator, and we urge women to be vigilant and inform their GP as early as they can if this occurs. ‘Checking before you flush is just one simple way to stay alert to the warning signs.’

Sara Hiom, Cancer Research UK’s director of early diagnosis, echoed the calls for women to seek medical help as soon as they spot an unusual symptom. She said: ‘It can be tempting to put a new symptom down to an innocent cause, or wait for it to happen a few times before seeking help.

‘But some signs, such as blood in pee, need to be acted on promptly, by both patients and doctors, even if it just happens the once.  ‘Being quicker to spot and act on the signs of bladder cancer and ensuring that women receive the right care and treatment is vital if more women are going to survive this disease.’

There are two main types of bladder cancer. Non-invasive bladder cancer is where the disease develops only in the inner lining of the bladder.

Meanwhile invasive bladder cancer is where the cancer has spread into the deeper walls of the bladder. Of more than 200 known cancers, bladder cancer ranks fifth most common in the western world.

It is a disease that affects people regardless of age and sex, although it is recognised the chances of developing the disease increase as a person gets older.

What causes bladder cancer?
Smoking is by far the largest preventable cause of bladder cancer. Other causes include exposure to specific industrial chemicals and dyes, as well as diesel fumes. Studies have also suggested a hereditary link to bladder cancer.

However, in almost half of cases experts still do not know what causes the disease. It is one of the reasons the Shout Out About Bladder Cancer campaign team are attempting to raise more money to fund more extensive research.

Currently just 0.6 per cent of cancer research is spent on bladder cancer. The result is that treatments for the disease are much the same as they were 35 years ago. A spokesman for the campaign said: ‘Quite simply, the current treatments are not very good at preventing recurrence or stopping the cancer spreading and becoming fatal.

‘That is why it is still the most expensive cancer for the NHS to treat and it has the highest recurrence rate of any cancer.’

The most common symptoms are:

  • Blood in your wee is the most common symptoms
  • Pain when urinating
  • Needing to wee frequently
  • Urinary infections that keep coming back
  • Tiredness
  • Lower back or abdominal pain
  • Unexplained weight loss

Source: Shout Out About Bladder Cancer

Published: 8 June 2015, By Lizzie Parry
Published © Associated Newspapers Ltd

content provided by NHS Choices

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