Bladder cancer has long been considered a disease of older men. Though it is more prevalent in men, studies have shown that women are more likely to present more advanced tumors and have a worse prognosis than men at almost every stage of the disease. According to a report published by the National Cancer Institute, the survival rate for women with bladder cancer lags behind that of men at all stages of the disease. African-American women, particularly have poor outcomes when diagnosed with bladder cancer. They present with the highest proportion of advanced and aggressive tumors when compared to African-American men and Caucasian men and women. In addition, the number of women diagnosed with bladder cancer has been increasing. It is important for women to understand their risks for bladder cancer and know what to ask their doctors.
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 type
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF
Blood in the urine
In most cases, blood in the urine (called hematuria) is the first sign of bladder cancer. Sometimes, there is enough blood to change the color of the urine to orange, pink, or, less often, darker red. Sometimes, the color of the urine is normal but small amounts of blood are found when a urine test (urinalysis) is done because of other symptoms or as part of a general medical checkup.
Changes in bladder habits or symptoms of irritation
Bladder cancer can sometimes cause changes in urination, such as:
- Having to urinate more often than usual
- Pain or burning during urination
- Feeling as if you need to go right away, even when the bladder is not full
- Having trouble urinating or having a weak urine stream
These symptoms are also more likely to be caused by a urinary tract infection (UTI), bladder stones, an overactive bladder, or an enlarged prostate (in men).
Symptoms of advanced bladder cancer
Bladder cancers that have grown large enough or have spread to other parts of the body can sometimes cause other symptoms, such as:
- Being unable to urinate
- Lower back pain on one side
- Loss of appetite and weight loss
- Feeling tired or weak
- Swelling in the feet
- Bone pain
Again, many of these symptoms are more likely to be caused by something other than bladder cancer, but it’s important to have them checked so that the cause can be found and treated, if needed.
WHAT DO WOMEN NEED TO KNOW
ABOUT BLADDER CANCER?
- Bladder cancer can affect women at any age.
- Smoking is the greatest risk factor. Smokers get bladder cancer twice as often as non-smokers.
- Bladder cancer symptoms may be identical to those of a bladder infection and the two problems may occur together. If symptoms do not disappear after treatment with antibiotics, insist upon further evaluation to determine whether bladder cancer is present.
- Bladder cancer has the highest recurrence rate of any form of cancer—between 50-80 percent.
ADVICE FROM WOMEN SURVIVORS
The good news is that in most cases, if caught early, bladder cancer is a manageable disease. There are tens of thousands of women bladder cancer survivors living today.