By Lucy Ashton
Jackie Baillie, pictured right, is backing Bladder Cancer Awareness Month this May in order to raise awareness of the condition which has far worse survival rates in Scotland compared to England. They are also the lowest in Europe.
Charity Fight Bladder Cancer UK is determined to spark conversations about the disease by highlighting symptoms and overcoming barriers to seeking medical advice.
One of the main barriers in the timely diagnosis of bladder cancer is related to the symptoms. Symptoms and how people respond to them can vary, especially as some symptoms are not immediately seen as linked to bladder cancer.
The main symptoms are blood in the urine, a reoccurring urinary tract infection which does not clear up, frequent urination or pain when urinating and abdominal lower back and pelvic pain.
1700 people are diagnosed each year with invasive and non-invasive bladder cancer in Scotland. Five-year survival rates for bladder cancer in Scotland are 53 percent for men and just 42 percent for women. In England this figure is 74 percent and 67 percent respectively.
These rates have not improved during the last three decades despite the cancer being the fifth most common cancer in the western world yet only receiving just one percent of cancer research funding.
Across the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board area, which includes West Dunbartonshire, there were 266 patients who had urgent referrals made for a suspicion of urological cancer between October and December last year. Of these, more than half (53 percent) had to wait for 84 days or more to be seen.
Bladder cancer is the second most common urological cancer, behind prostate cancer.
As with most cancers, a timely diagnosis offers a significant increase in the chance of long-term survival and quality of life.
Jackie Baillie, Dumbarton constituency MSP, said: “It is astonishing to learn that the five-year survival rate for bladder cancer is so much lower in Scotland compared to England and the rest of Europe.
“We have some fantastic research facilities here, some of which I have visited recently, yet there is a lack of investment which is worrying.
“The SNP Government is yet to publish their new cancer plan after the last one expired at the end of March. It is important that the new Cabinet Secretary for Health gets this one right and that it focuses on achieving the best outcomes for patients who have been let down by the SNP.”
Dr Lydia Makaroff, CEO of Fight Bladder Cancer: “Bladder cancer is more common than people think, and in many cases – patients hear of bladder cancer for the first time when they receive their diagnosis. Bladder cancer can no longer remain the forgotten cancer because delays in diagnosis and treatment cost a life.
“Everyone who experiences these symptoms, especially if they see blood in their urine, should see a doctor.”
Amongst the guests was Fight Bladder Cancer Trustee, supporter and patient, Danielle, and her 7-year-old daughter, Zara. Danielle told her story. She was 25 years old and 6 months pregnant when she was diagnosed with bladder cancer. Whilst the pregnancy meant that there were complications, her tumour was only discovered after a scan. If Danielle had not been pregnant the tumour might not have been discovered until the cancer was far advanced. For this reason, Zara is known to Danielle and her family as “The little life-saver”. The operation was carried out by Mr (now Professor) Mariappan at the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh. Fight Bladder Cancer are proud to have Danielle and Zara as advocates. Her story is available to read at the Fight Bladder Cancer website: https://www.fightbladdercancer.co.uk/real-stories/danielle
Not all bladder cancer stories have a happy ending but we heard a more up-beat story from John, now in his late 70’s, who was treated for bladder cancer 23 years ago.
John’s cancer was found at an early stage and treated with BCG, an immunotherapy drug. His current vitality is testament to the effectiveness of his treatment.
He is a driving force within his local community. John is also an advocate for Fight Bladder Cancer and regularly helps at bladder cancer awareness events.
In some ways, these two stories are more positive than most patients who had a bladder cancer diagnosis, proving that early diagnosis, treatment and research could result in more positive outcomes for the extremely high percentage of people for whom it leads to premature death.
[i]Cancer.org. Survival Rates for Bladder Cancer. Available online: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/bladder-cancer/detection-diagnosis-staging/survival-rates.html#:~:text=For%20example%2C%20if%20the%205,5%20years%20after%20being%20diagnosed.
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