This article is written by Stephanie Chisolm, Director of Education & Research at Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network, one of Outcome Health’s health advocacy partners.
Bladder cancer is the sixth most common cancer and this year more than 81,000 Americans will be diagnosed. Yes, it does happen more often in older Americans. Yes, it does happen more often in men than in women. Yes, people with a history of exposure to smoking (and vaping) are at higher risk of developing bladder cancer. But…
Most will learn about bladder cancer the hard way when they are diagnosed. Approximately 17,000 die from bladder cancer every year, and the Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network (BCAN) wants everyone to know that this cancer can and does happen at any age. And it is a serious disease. May is Bladder Cancer Awareness Month and May is a great time to help ensure that everyone becomes #BladderCancerAware – all year long.
We value our partnership with Outcome Health because their job, like ours, is information dissemination. This collaboration will allow us to reach patients, caregivers and healthcare professionals all converging at the point of care so that everyone can become more #BladderCancerAware. For BCAN, the more people who know about the signs, symptoms and risk factors for bladder cancer, the better. Early diagnosis is key to more successful patient outcomes.
If you see blood in your urine, at any age, go see to your doctor as soon as possible. Urine should be clear and a light-yellow color. Visible blood in your urine is known as gross hematuria. But blood that can only be seen in your urine test (cytology) at the doctor’s office should also be checked out.
When Rick noticed urgency and more frequent urination for over a year, he never questioned when his doctor just commented that he was getting older. However, when he saw a light tinge of blood in his urine at age 48, he went straight to the urologist and was diagnosed with bladder cancer. Bladder cancer also occurs in women. At 57 years old, Anne was too busy fighting for her country to question why multiple rounds of antibiotics didn’t get rid of the blood she saw in her urine.
Some of the risk factors for developing bladder cancer are avoidable, others, like getting older, are not.
Knowing risk factors for bladder cancer also helps with early diagnoses. They include:
- Smoking: Smoking is the greatest risk factor. Smokers get bladder cancer twice as often as people who don’t smoke.
- Chemical exposure: Some chemicals used in the making of dye have been linked to bladder cancer. People who work with chemicals called aromatic amines may have higher risk. These chemicals are used in making rubber, leather, printing materials, textiles and paint products.
- Race: Caucasians are twice as likely to develop bladder cancer as are African Americans or Hispanics. Asians have the lowest rate of bladder cancer.
- Age: The risk of bladder cancer increases as you get older.
- Gender: While men get bladder cancer more often than women, recent statistics show an increase in the number of women being diagnosed with the disease. Unfortunately, because the symptoms of bladder cancer are similar to those of other gynecologic and urinary diseases affecting women, women may be diagnosed when their disease is at a more advanced stage.
- Chronic bladder inflammation: Urinary infections, kidney stones and bladder stones don’t cause bladder cancer, but they have been linked to it.
- Personal history of bladder cancer: People who have had bladder cancer have a higher chance of getting another tumor in their urinary system. People whose family members have had bladder cancer may also have a higher risk.
- Birth defects of the bladder: Very rarely, a connection between the belly button and the bladder doesn’t disappear as it should before birth and can become cancerous.
- Arsenic: Arsenic in drinking water has been linked to a higher risk of bladder cancer.
- Earlier Treatment: Some drugs (in particular Cytoxan/cyclophosphamide) or radiation used to treat other cancers can increase the risk of bladder cancer.
Stephanie Chisolm is the Director of Education & Research at Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network. For more information about bladder cancer, its signs and symptoms as well as research, treatment and support options, please visit www.BCAN.org or call 888-901-BCAN.