Press release

Earlier diagnosis of bladder cancer could improve survival rates in women

Details of new bladder cancer research by Public Health England including possible factors for poorer survival rates amongst for women.

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New research by Public Health England’s (PHE) National Cancer Intelligence Network (NCIN), presented at the Cancer Outcomes Conference 2015 in Belfast, shows that survival rates for bladder cancer in women are worse than men by around 10%.

Possible factors to explain the poorer outcomes for women include later diagnosis, and having rarer forms of the cancer. Women are being urged to act promptly when they see the warning signs, which include visible blood in pee and pain while urinating. The research shows there are a number of possible explanations for why women are being diagnosed later:

  • women have an increased chance of being diagnosed with the most advanced stage of bladder cancer (30% higher than men)
  • women are more likely to present as an emergency: 1 in 4 diagnoses are made this way
  • women are less likely to have cystectomy or radical radiotherapy – this could be attributed to later diagnosis
  • women are more likely to have a rare type of bladder cancer: 1 in 4 diagnoses are not of the main type

Julia Verne, Strategic Public Health Lead of PHE’s National Cancer Intelligence Network said:

Generally women have higher survival from cancer so this is an unusual finding. Urine infections are common in women so bladder cancer can be difficult to spot as the symptoms are relatively similar.

Visible blood in pee is the leading indicator, and we urge women to be vigilant and inform their GP as early as they can if this occurs. Checking before you flush is just one simple way to stay alert to the warning signs.

Sara Hiom, Cancer Research UK’s director of early diagnosis, said:

It can be tempting to put a new symptom down to an innocent cause, or wait for it to happen a few times before seeking help. But some signs, such as blood in pee, need to be acted on promptly, by both patients and doctors, even if it just happens the once. Being quicker to spot and act on the signs of bladder cancer and ensuring that women receive the right care and treatment is vital if more women are going to survive this disease.

Background

  1. Men have 77% 1-year relative survival compared to 64% in women and men have 58% 5-year relative survival compared to 47% in women. (These findings were calculated using the National Cancer Registration Service data for England.)
  2. In 2013, nearly 2,500 women in England were diagnosed with bladder cancer: Office for National Statistics cancer registration statistics
  3. Around 1,500 died from the disease: Office for National Statistics deaths summary tables 2013
  4. The findings are being presented at the NCIN Cancer Outcomes Conference 2015, Tuesday 9 June 2015.
  5. PHE has been responding to the late diagnosis of cancer with awareness raising campaigns like Be Clear on Cancer. The first national Be Clear on Cancer Blood in Pee campaign (October – November 2013) showed that:
    • 7 in 10 (72%) of those aware of cancer symptoms advertising mentioned blood in pee as a cancer symptom seen or heard about in the last few months, compared with 23% pre campaign
    • over 2 in 5 people spontaneously mentioned blood in pee as a symptom of kidney or bladder cancer following the campaign
    • confidence in the knowledge of signs and symptoms of bladder/kidney cancer increased significantly, going from 28% before the campaign to 41% after the campaign
    • although the increase in confidence in the knowledge of bladder/kidney cancer symptoms was higher for women (women: 30% to 45%, men: 25% to 37%), men (71%) were more likely than women (61%) to find the advertising relevant. Similarly more men (48%) than women (43%) felt the advertising told them something new
    • following the campaign the number of bladder cancers resulting from an urgent referral increased by 8.2% in total, with a higher increase for males
  6. Public Health England exists to protect and improve the nation’s health and wellbeing, and reduce health inequalities. It does this through world-class science, knowledge and intelligence, advocacy, partnerships and the delivery of specialist public health services. PHE is an operationally autonomous executive agency of the Department of Health. www.gov.uk/phe. Twitter: @PHE_uk, Facebook: www.facebook.com/PublicHealthEngland

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Published 8 June 2015