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Raising awareness of symptoms of bladder and kidney cancer


    A blog considering the signs and symptoms of bladder and kidney cancer in support of March 2016’s ‘be clear on cancer – blood in pee’ symptom reminder campaign.

    By Rosie Hodgetts

Bladder and kidney cancers are reported to be the 7th and 8th most commonly diagnosed cancers with around 17,450 people in England being diagnosed each year.  Despite diagnosis, and advances in treatment, survival rates for these cancers have remained static for the past decade.  Throughout March 2016 the NHS are running a “be clear on cancer – blood in pee” symptom reminder campaign seeking to further raise awareness and to help diagnose early symptoms and improve outcomes.

What is bladder cancer?

Bladder cancer occurs where a tumour develops in the bladder lining.  In some instances, this tumour will also spread to the surrounding muscle.

The most common type of bladder cancer is a non muscle invasive bladder cancer where the cancerous cells are contained inside the lining of the bladder. This accounts for 7 out of every 10 diagnosed cases.

If the cancerous cells spread beyond the lining of the bladder and into the surrounding muscles this is known as a muscle invasive bladder cancer.

Whilst a non muscle invasive bladder cancer does not, ordinarily prove fatal, once it becomes muscle invasive there is an increased risk that it will spread into other parts of the body which can prove fatal.

What is kidney cancer?

The most common kind of kidney cancer which accounts for around 80% of all cases is renal cell carcinoma (RCC). This is a cancer that originates in the lining of the proximal convoluted tubule, a part of the very small tubes in the kidney that transport waste molecules from the blood to the urine.

Other less common forms of kidney cancer are those that develop in the lining of the kidneys (transitional cell cancer) or those present in children (Wilms’ tumour).

Ordinarily, only one of the kidneys would be affected by cancer and it is caused when cells, which normally grow and multiply in an orderly way begin to grow and multiply uncontrollably.

What are the causes of kidney and bladder cancers?

The exact causes of kidney and bladder cancers are unknown. It is however recognised that the majority of people diagnosed with these kind of cancers are over 50 and that they are more common in men than women.  Smokers also have a much higher risk of these cancers.

Other risk factors are recognised as:

  • Being overweight or obese;
  • Exposure to certain chemicals which may occur in the workplace;
  • Other medical conditions such as kidney failure;
  • A family history of cancer.

Why is it important to raise awareness?

It is well documented that the earlier a diagnosis of cancer is made, the easier it is to treat and the more positive the overall outcome is likely to be.

NHS England, Public Health England and the Department of Health, supported by Cancer Research UK, are running a national reminder campaign to raise awareness for the signs and symptoms of bladder and kidney cancer which, unfortunately, are often ignored by individuals as they can be confused with symptoms of infection or bladder or kidney stones.  The main campaigns have been run annually since 2013 and are reported to have shown a significant increase in the numbers of patients seeking advice for symptoms and the numbers being referred for further investigations.


The main symptoms to look out for are:

Bladder Cancer:

  • Blood in your urine – even if it happens just the once;
  • Serious cystitis (a urinary tract infection) that comes back shortly after treatment or is difficult to treat;
  • Pain while peeing.

Kidney Cancer:

  • Blood in your urine – even if it only occurs the once;
  • Pain in the side, below the ribs that persists;
  • Weight loss.

It is important that if you have any of these symptoms you see your GP as soon as possible, and the campaign is trying to ensure that patients feel reassured that they will not be wasting anyone’s time by seeking advice even if they have only experienced the symptoms once.

My colleagues and I in the Clinical Negligence Team are fully supportive of the “blood in pee” campaign to raise awareness for bladder and kidney cancer.  Unfortunately, we have represented individuals who have suffered a late diagnosis of urological cancer due to failures in medical care and have seen the impact in terms of more significant treatment requirements and worse long term prognosis.  Increasing awareness of symptoms for both patients and doctors, and encouraging anyone with concerns to see their doctor as soon as possible, is vital to ensure diagnosis at the earliest opportunity.  We are pleased to see that the campaign is aimed at both patients and medical professionals alike and hope it will continue to show such positive results.

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