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Bladder Cancer: the Forgotten Killer

LONDON, February 25, 2014 /PRNewswire/ --

Survival from bladder cancer is worsening in England according to a new paper published in the Journal of Clinical Urology[1].  Despite the number of new cases in bladder cancer falling, the number of deaths has not reduced by a similar proportion.  Overall, deaths from the disease remain higher in England than in other European countries with similar incidence rates.  Action on Bladder Cancer (ABC) and Fight Bladder Cancer (FBC), the two UK charities working to raise awareness of this devastating disease, insist more has to be done to improve the care of people with bladder cancer, which lags starkly behind nearly all other cancers.

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The new paper[1] analysed comprehensive information about patients with bladder cancer in England between 1990 and 2009. The overall number of new cases dropped by approximately 19%, from 10,742 in 1990 to 8775 cases in 2009. However, the overall number of deaths (mortality) from bladder cancer only dropped by approximately 10%, from 4,546 in 1995 to 4,135 in 2010. This indicates that survival of the disease is worsening.

Bladder cancer is the seventh most common cancer in the UK, accounting for about 1 in 30 of new cases of cancer each year[2]. On average, 14 people die from bladder cancer every day in the UK[2]. Despite this, bladder cancer is still hugely under-recognised in the UK.

There is a huge lack of understanding about bladder cancer which can lead to people being mis-diagnosed and/or diagnosed at a later stage in the disease. Even just one episode of blood in the urine may indicate that bladder cancer may be present. Almost half (45%) of the UK public are not aware of this[3] and so many people do not seek initial advice from their GP early enough when their disease is still very treatable. People need to understand the warning signs, see their GP and be referred for tests under a policy of being seen by a urologist within two weeks of referral, so that if bladder cancer is present, they have the best possible chance from their treatment.

Frontline doctors also need to be more aware that all patients with any episode of blood in their urine need to be referred to a urologist promptly for assessment. This paper and previous studies[4] show that women experience more delays in referral from their GP to a specialist than men, resulting in about 700 women per year having their diagnosis delayed.[3]Women are also more likely to have muscle invasive or advanced disease at their time of diagnosis and that these women are more likely to have worse clinical outcomes than men at a similar stage of bladder cancer at their time of diagnosis.

The main risk factors for bladder cancer are smoking and occupational exposure to substances that can cause or aggravate cancer. Public health measures to reduce smoking are helping to reduce the incidence and mortality from bladder cancer, however public and healthcare professional awareness of bladder cancer is still alarmingly low.

Mr Hugh Mostafid, Chair of Action on Bladder Cancer (ABC) and co-author of the paper, says "This analysis is extremely significant to our understanding of how serious bladder cancer really is. With over 10,000 people diagnosed every year in the UK, Bladder cancer is not a rare cancer, and yet it seems to be hardly ever talked about. If people see blood in their wee, even if it is just the one time, they need to see their GP straight away. GPs then need to act on this immediately and refer the patient to a urologist for assessment.

Much more needs to urgently be done to help combat this common and potentially devastating illness. To help reduce the number of people dying from bladder cancer in the UK, the paper highlights:

  1. The general population and frontline doctors need to be more aware and understand the signs of bladder cancer;
  2. All people with suspected bladder cancer need equal access and treatment to care, regardless of their gender, age, region and socio-economic status;
  3. The treatment of non muscle-invasive bladder cancer in particular needs to be improved with earlier radical treatment, particularly in females.

It is only through taking these actions that we can hope to improve the life expectancy of so many people with bladder cancer."

For further information, please contact:

Action on Bladder Cancer and Fight Bladder Cancer are UK charities working to improve the lives of people with bladder cancer. The two charities are working closely to promote research into bladder cancer and to ensure greater awareness in order to promote earlier diagnosis and better care, and thus better survival rates:

About Action on Bladder Cancer

Action on Bladder Cancer (ABC) is a national charity led by urologists, oncologists, specialist nurses and patients, working to improve public awareness, medical knowledge and the priority of bladder cancer on the UK health agenda. (http://www.actiononbladdercancer.org).

About Fight Bladder Cancer

Fight Bladder Cancer is a national charity founded and run by people affected by bladder cancer that is dedicated to providing information and support to people affected by bladder cancer. As well as offering a confidential online support forum, they also run a dedicated website for people affected by bladder cancer.

(http://www.fightbladdercancer.co.uk / http://www.facebook.com/fightbladdercancer [email protected] )


  1. Eylert MF et al (2014). Falling bladder cancer incidence from 1990 to 2009 is not producing universal mortality improvements. Journal of Clinical Urology 0(0) 1-9, available at: http://uro.sagepub.com/content/early/2013/07/03/2051415813492724.full.pdf+html



  1. Cancer Research UK, Cancer Stats Key Facts, Bladder Cancer http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/cancer-info/cancerstats/keyfacts/bladder-cancer/uk-bladder-cancer-statistics
  2. GfK NOP Survey on bladder cancer for Action on Bladder Cancer, April 2012
  3. http://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/3/6/e002861.full

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