oncologistA team of doctors from the U.K. have a warning for people who suspect they may have bladder cancer: Don’t ignore the early symptoms. In an article in the journal Practitioner, British medical oncologists Drs. Karen DeSouza, Simon Chowdhury and Simon Hughes say that prompt diagnosis is often the key to survival in bladder cancer.

Bladder cancer is the most common cancer involving the urinary tract and is one of the most common cancers in both the U.S. and the U.K.  It is more common in men than in women. Bladder cancer is also more common among people with diabetes, especially if they have ever been treated with the blood sugar regulator, Actos.

In its early stages, bladder cancer, which usually starts in the lining of the bladder, often responds well to treatment.  Unfortunately, the authors of the new study observe, “delayed diagnosis is associated with high-grade muscle invasive disease”, which can progress rapidly and is more likely to spread to other parts of the body.

In an article entitled, “Prompt diagnosis key in bladder cancer”, Dr. DeSouza and colleagues detail the early symptoms of bladder cancer, which are sometimes mistaken for urinary tract infections. Blood in the urine is described as the “classical and most common presentation” of bladder cancer. Patients with early bladder cancer may also experience pain with urination, urgency, and the feeling of needing to urinate frequently.

By the time a patient with bladder cancer experiences symptoms such as weight loss, loss of appetite, respiratory symptoms or fatigue, the disease has often spread to other parts of the body and chances of survival are diminished. To improve the odds, the authors suggest that patients and their doctors investigate any potential bladder cancer symptoms thoroughly, performing lab tests including FBC (also known as Complete Blood Count or CBC), coagulation, creatinine and PSA.

These tests are especially important for patients with diabetes, including those who have taken Actos, because of their increased bladder cancer risk. If any of these laboratory tests suggest a patient may have bladder cancer, diagnosis is made through a combination of urine cytology, cystoscopy (an examination of the inside of the bladder with an endoscope), and pathology tests on bladder cells.


DeSouza, K, Chowdhury, S, Hughes, S, “Prompt diagnosis key in bladder cancer”, Practitioner, January 2014, pp. 23-27

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