It may start out as some blood in your urine. You may shrug it off as nothing. But, early testing for bladder cancer could save your life.
If you’ve never heard of bladder cancer, you’re not alone. Surprisingly, it’s the fifth most common cancer in Canada. About 9,000 Canadians will be diagnosed this year and 2,500 will die from it.
Some people have no symptoms of bladder cancer. But the most common symptom is blood in the urine, which may look pale yellow-red to bright or rusty red. Other symptoms include frequent urination, an intense need to urinate, pain or burning sensations during urination and back, pelvic or groin pain.
Bladder cancer is often misdiagnosed as a urinary tract infection because the symptoms are so similar, so it’s important to follow up on any of these symptoms and ask your family doctor to refer you to an urologist.
WHAT CAUSES BLADDER CANCER?
Smoking is the most common risk factor. Other causes include exposure to high levels of arsenic and chemicals associated with working in certain industries, such as professional painting and manufacturing of rubber, aluminum, metal, and textiles and dyes. But, in many cases, the cause may be unknown.
If diagnosed early, the tumours may be contained within the bladder and have not spread to the muscle surrounding the organ. That type of bladder cancer accounts for about 90 per cent of all cases. Typical treatment for this type involves surgery to remove tumours from inside the bladder.
However, the tumours recur approximately 70% of the time, requiring repeat treatments to remove new tumours. For this reason, bladder cancer is the most expensive cancer to treat on a per-patient basis.
HOW CAN YOU HELP?
To find out how you can help — or to help yourself — go to the Bladder Cancer Canada website at www.bladdercancercanada.org. You’ll find tons of excellent information and reliable discussion forums where you can ask questions or share. You can also donate to help fund research to end bladder cancer — forever.