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Bladder cancer awareness month: Don’t dismiss it as UTI

0 2 years ago

Bladder cancer ranks among the top 10 types of cancer globally. Among men, it is the fourth-most prevalent type of cancer, following prostate, lung, and colorectal cancers. Yet the awareness about bladder cancer remains limited in India.

As per official records, 18,921 new cases of bladder cancer were reported in India in 2020. In all likelihood, there are many more people suffering from the ailment, but undiagnosed owing to several reasons.

This Bladder Cancer Awareness Month, let’s try to understand this little-understood disease.

More common in older men

Bladder cancer, a common type of cancer that begins in the cells of the bladder, is more common in adults who are on the other side of 60. Men above the age of 60 are a lot more prone than women of the same age, or younger adults.

Globally, the average age for diagnosis of bladder cancer is 73 years. When we consider this in the context of Indian patients, it is easy to understand why there is such low awareness and lack of proactive access to timely diagnosis and care. Often, any kind of symptoms that don’t seem life-threatening are seen as a part of aging, and hence, not dealt with expeditiously.

Not the same as UTI

Moreover, it doesn’t help that there are several similarities between the symptoms for bladder cancer and urinary tract infection (UTI), an infection of the urinary system that is relatively common. In fact, transitional cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, the two prevalent types of bladder cancer, are known to exhibit symptoms that are very similar to UTI. This includes a strong burning sensation while passing urine, signs of blood in the urine, urge for frequent urination, and back pain, among others.

Given the UTI-like symptoms, it is critical for patients to look out for distinguishing factors to help reach an accurate diagnosis. One of the key signs to look out for is how long the symptoms persist or even recur. Most UTIs recede within a week or so. Therefore, patients must treat symptoms running past 10 to 15 days as a red flag, and book an appointment with an oncologist.

Unlike bladder cancer, women are more likely than men to get UTIs. Incidentally, a history of frequent UTIs is considered to be a risk factor bladder cancer. A family history of cancer, especially bladder cancer, and any long-term exposure to specific industrial chemicals also play a role in increasing a person’s risk for bladder cancer. In case of doubts related to the symptoms, it is best to seek medical advice.

Remember that medical test results can take a couple of days. Diagnosis and treatment, in case the results turn out to be positive, can only begin post that. Just as with other types of cancer, timely diagnosis is the key to combatting bladder cancer.

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