Bladder cancer is a potentially life-threatening illness that is generally under-discussed, according to some experts. Andrew Winterbottom, founder and director of the UK charity Fight Bladder Cancer, says that his charity seeks to raise awareness about the illness, including the most common symptoms, so that the odds of survival can increase. In a Huffington Post UK article, he discusses important questions surrounding bladder cancer and why the survival rates are low.
Bladder cancer is generally easy to diagnose. The problem, says WInterbottom, is that diagnosis often happens too late because people are not familiar with the symptoms. The main sign of bladder cancer is blood in the urine, and the severity of this symptom can vary. Some patients clearly see blood while others would not be able to tell without testing, Symptoms of bladder cancer include:
- Blood in the urine
- Pain while urinating
- Frequent urination
- Persistent urinary infections
- Abdominal pain
Women can also be subject to a later diagnosis because of the common misconception that bladder cancer only affects older men, when in fact it can affect anyone. Bladder cancer can also be problematic because it has high rates of recurrence, making it expensive to treat. Furthermore, compared to other forms of cancer there has not been a substantial amount of funding to research new treatments. Winterbottom’s charity advocates bringing awareness, pointing out that “Over 5,000 people in this country [UK] lose their lives to this little discussed disease every year. That’s more people than are affected by many well known cancers, including leukaemia, kidney cancer, ovarian cancer, liver cancer, pancreatic cancer, cervical cancer and brain tumours.”
According to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 72,570 new bladder cancer cases were diagnosed and an estimated 15,210 deaths occurred from bladder cancer in the United States in 2013. In the UK, bladder cancer is the seventh most common cancer and more than 10,000 people are diagnosed with it every year.
Chances of survival increase with early detection. If caught while the cancer is still on the lining of the bladder, there is an 80 percent survival rate for the first five years. The chances can drop to less than 15 percent if the cancer is detected in the later stages and had spread through the bladder wall into other organs.
Bladder cancer is a frequently discussed side effect of Actos (pioglitazone), a type 2 diabetes drug manufactured by Takeda Pharmaceutical. Many studies have shown that Actos increases the risk of bladder cancer, and the drug was even suspended in France and Germany because of this link in 2011. Shortly afterwards, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned that there is a significantly higher chance of developing bladder cancer after one year of using Actos. Thousands of Actos users have filed lawsuits over bladder cancer allegedly caused by the diabetes drug. About 2,700 cases have been filed into a multidistrict litigation (MDL) before the Honorably Rebecca F. Doherty in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana.