Professor Julia Verne
Public Health England
Blood in urine is key symptom of bladder and kidney cancers – both in the top ten most common cancers in England – but new research finds that only 16% of those most at risk check the colour of their urine every time they go to the toilet.
Being clear on bladder and kidney cancer
Every year, around 19,100[i] new cases of bladder and kidney cancer are diagnosed in England and around 8,000 people die from these diseases.[ii]However, we know these cancers are more treatable if they are found early.
It’s important for people of all ages, but in particular the over 50s, to get into the habit of looking before they flush so that they spot any signs of blood in their urine.
Of those diagnosed with kidney cancer at the earliest stage (stage 1) 84% will live for at least five years.[i] At a late stage (stage 4), however, this drops to just 10%[ii]. Similarly, 77% of those diagnosed with bladder cancer at the earliest stage (stage 1) will live for at least five years,[i][ii] but when diagnosed at a late stage (stage 4), this drops to 9%.[i][ii]
With these figures in mind, in July, we at Public Health England relaunched our national ‘Be Clear on Cancer’ campaign across England to raise awareness of one of the key symptoms of these diseases, blood in urine. Blood in urine is a symptom in almost two thirds (64%)[iii] of bladder cancer patients and around a fifth (18%)[iv] of kidney cancer patients.
Look before you flush
The campaign message is clear – we want everyone to ‘look before they flush’ and visit their GP (family doctor) without delay if they notice blood in their urine, even if it’s just once.
For the campaign this year, we conducted new research, which found that around half (47%) of adults aged 50 and over in England – those most at risk – would not seek medical advice if they saw blood in their urine just once, with 45% saying they would wait and see if it happened again, potentially putting off a vital diagnosis.[v]
We also found that only a small number (16%) of these adults check the colour of their urine every time they go to the toilet – with women being less likely to check every time (12% vs. 20% of men).[v]
Don’t delay in telling your doctor
The campaign is aimed at people over the age of 50 because this age group is most at risk of bladder and kidney cancers.[i]
When we asked the over 50s why they would not go to the GP straight away, one in five (20%) said they would be worried about wasting the GP’s time and nearly a quarter (23%) would only book an appointment sooner if they had other symptoms.[v]
It’s important for people of all ages, but in the over 50s, to get into the habit of looking before they flush so that they spot any signs of blood in their urine. If there is blood, they should go to their GP – they shouldn’t wait for other symptoms or to see if it comes back. This will help diagnose more people at the early stages, when cancer is more treatable, improving their chances of living longer.
For further information about the signs and symptoms of bladder and kidney cancer, go to Be Clear on Cancer