Cinderella Cancer : Bladder cancer in the Spotlight
Urology Bladder cancer is the ninth most common cancer in the UK with around 10,400 people diagnosed every year.
Around 5,300 more men are diagnosed with the disease than women, with around 7,500 men diagnosed and around 2,900 women diagnosed every year. Almost 6 in 10 (55%) cases are diagnosed in people aged 75 and older, and 9 in 10 (91%) cases are diagnosed in people aged 60 and over. Given an increasingly ageing UK population this emphasises the importance of developing new and kinder treatments. Half (50%) of people diagnosed with bladder cancer survive their disease for ten years or more.
Smoking is the main avoidable risk factor for bladder cancer, linked to an estimated 37% of bladder cancer cases in the UK.
Stages of bladder cancer
There are two main groups of bladder cancer. There is early stage bladder cancer where the cancer has not invaded the muscle wall of the bladder, and more advanced cancer cases where the cancer has grown into the muscle wall, or beyond.
Symptoms of bladder cancer
The most common symptom of bladder cancer is blood in the urine. Anyone spotting blood in their urine, even if it goes away, should go to their doctor to get it checked out – it may not be cancer but it is best to rule it out as soon as possible. Other symptoms include needing to urinate more often, or having pain on urination, or frequent urine infections where antibiotics don’t seem to help.
Research into bladder cancer
There is an urgent need for more research into bladder cancer to develop better ways to diagnose and treat the disease.
But the good news is that the UK has led very strongly on research into bladder cancer with support and collaboration with the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) Bladder & Renal Clinical Study Group. The NCRI is a UK wide partnership between research funders working together to make faster progress against cancer. The NCRI Partners have funded more than £5.5bn of cancer research across all cancers including bladder cancer since 2002, and working together ensures that these funds are used to best effect. One trial that has changed practice around the world, the BC2001 study led from the UK showed that for many patients with bladder cancer involving the muscle wall, giving chemoradiotherapy treatment was a good alternative to surgery to remove the bladder.
New studies are developing all the time looking at new ways of doing operations, radiotherapy and chemotherapy treatments, together with immunotherapy, a new type of treatment using the body’s own immune system to help fight cancers better.
Support for patients with bladder cancer is vital. One such support group is Fight Bladder cancer, a UK based charity run by patients for patients with an excellent website giving practical and treatment-related information, together with a Facebook support group with 2,500 members worldwide. Its Chair and Funder, Andrew Winterbottom, is an NCRI Consumer and member of the Bladder & Renal CSG.