Several members of the BladderCancer.net community shared that they knew nothing about bladder cancer until after they were diagnosed. We found that this is a common experience among people living with bladder cancer, as well their friends and family members, so we wanted to share six lesser known facts about bladder cancer.
1. It’s one of the most common cancers
Bladder cancer is the fifth most common cancer in the US, and fourth most common in men.1 Despite this, there were no new treatments for bladder cancer approved in over thirty years until 2016, and funding for bladder cancer research was actually cut by 7% between 2002 and 2005 while funding for other cancers increased during this period.2,3 Raising awareness for bladder cancer is extremely important to acquire more funding and conduct research in order to improve diagnosis methods, increase clinical trial and treatment options, and reduce the burden of bladder cancer in the US.
While bladder cancer is more common in men, women can develop bladder cancer, too! Some women have reported being diagnosed at a later stage or misdiagnosed due to a perception that only men get bladder cancer. In our Bladder Cancer In America 2017 survey, 28% of female patient respondents reported being misdiagnosed before their bladder cancer diagnosis. Both men and women should be aware of common bladder cancer symptoms and raise concerns with their doctors if they have experience these symptoms.
4. Urologists treat bladder cancer in men and women
Urologists are usually the specialists that diagnose and treat bladder cancer, and both men AND women can see a urologist. Their focus is the urinary tract which includes kidneys, the ureters, the urethra, and the bladder. Symptoms related to any of these organs should definitely be checked out by a urologist!
5. There is no routine screening
There is no routine screening recommended, so most people do not undergo any tests to detect bladder cancer unless they experience symptoms. Some risk factors have been identified that increase a person’s chance of developing bladder cancer, so some doctors might recommend bladder cancer tests for individuals who have been exposed to those risks factors. Smoking and exposure to harmful chemicals, including secondhand smoke, are the largest risk factors for bladder cancer.
6. There is a high recurrence rate
Bladder cancer has one of the highest recurrence rates among other common cancers, which means it is very likely to come back even after treatment. Due to this, some people might battle cancer for many years, and it becomes a chronic condition. Even when treatment is successful and the cancer is removed, patients usually have follow-up appointments and tests for five to even ten more years to ensure that the cancer hasn’t returned. This risk creates a lot of anxiety for those living with bladder cancer and their loved ones. Some survivors have reported a fear that any ache and pain could be the cancer returning. Bladder cancer can have a long-lasting physical and emotional impact.
Bladder Cancer: Statistics. ASCO. https://www.cancer.net/cancer-types/bladder-cancer/statistics Reviewed October 2017. Accessed online April 2018.
Messing EM. Why should we increase public awareness of bladder cancer, and how can we do it? Nature Clinical Practice Urology. March 2008. doi:10.1038/ncpuro1061.
Davarpanah NN, Yuno A, Trepel JB, Apolo AB. Immunotherapy: a new treatment paradigm in bladder cancer. Current Opinion in Oncology. 2017;29(3):184-195. doi:10.1097/CCO.0000000000000366.