Late diagnosis of bladder cancer fuels new UK campaign

Late diagnosis of bladder cancer has led patients and clinicians to launch a campaign aimed at raising awareness of the illness.

The Kelpies sculptures in Falkirk will be illuminated bright organge in support of the bladder cancer campaign
The Kelpies sculptures in Falkirk will be illuminated bright organge in support of the bladder cancer campaign

Fight Bladder Cancer (UK) and the European Cancer Patient Coalition revealed that catching the illness too late is the major reason behind poor outcomes for patients. Incidents of bladder cancer are worse in Scotland than the rest of the UK, with 870 diagnoses in 2016 – 50 men and 290 women – with a higher proprtion of women in particular.

The five-year survival rate for women in Scotland is 34 per cent compared to 48 per cent for the rest of the UK.

The global bladdder cancer awareness campaign was launched last night with the Kelpies at Falkirk being lit up in bright orange – the colours of the campaign.

Patients and clinicians gathered to remember those lost to the illness and to stand in solidarity with those currently living with a diagnosis.

Robert Jones, Professor of Clinical Cancer Research at the University of Glasgow, said: “We need to increase awareness about symptoms and the importance of early referral if we are to catch more cancers at the stage where they can be cured.”

Late diagnosis is an issue for bladder cancer as it an aggressive disease, which often does not respond well to current treatments, and because there have been few new treatments to emerge in 40 years.

The campaign says bladder cancer is lagging well behind other top ten cancers when it comes to funding research, including breast, prostate, bowel, lung and pancreatic cancers. It currently receives under 1 per cent of overall cancer research funding.

Prof Jones said that cancer waiting times in Scotland have helped improve rapid diagnosis and the treatment of many cancers but not bladder cancer.

He added: “The reason for this is that the clock stops after ‘first treatment’. In bladder cancer ‘first treatment’ – the initial operation – is often only the starting point.

“Many bladder cancer patients then have to wait for long periods before they can get on with the most important parts of their treatment such as chemotherapy, radiotherapy or cystectomy – when the bladder is removed.”

During Bladder Cancer Awareness Month, the campaign wants to bring an end to the “Cinderella forgotten cancer” reputation of bladder cancer.

The top three symptoms to look out for are: blood in your urine, urgent and frequent urges to urinate and urinary infections that do not clear up.