Around 17,450 people in England are diagnosed with bladder or kidney cancer every year and around 7,600 people die annually. Blood in pee is a symptom in over half of bladder cancers and almost a fifth of kidney cancers, so being aware of this is crucial.
The Be Clear on Cancer ‘blood in pee’ campaign ran nationally in 2013 and 2014. Analysis of diagnoses during the 2013 campaign period shows a statistically significant increase in the number of bladder and kidney cancers diagnosed at pre-cancerous and early stage, and a reduction in late stage diagnoses for bladder cancer. This early detection has been equated to the prevention of around 70 bladder cancer deaths and about 25 kidney cancer deaths. While it is not possible to link these findings to the campaign in isolation, the findings suggest that it is highly likely that the campaign has made an impact.
Early diagnosis of bladder and kidney cancer increases the chances of survival. For those diagnosed at the earliest stage (stage 1), the likelihood of surviving 5 years or more can be as high as 84% for kidney cancer and 77% for bladder cancer. However for those diagnosed at a late stage (stage 4), survival is as low as only 10% for kidney cancer and 9% for bladder cancer.
The campaign is aimed at men and women aged 50 and over, as between 90 to 97% of bladder and kidney cancer diagnoses are in people in this age group. It encourages anyone who notices blood in their pee, even if it’s ‘just the once’, to visit their GP to get it checked out. Given that people may not spot blood in their pee unless they check, this year’s campaign also promotes a ‘look before you flush’ message, particularly to women, who may be less likely to do so.
Dr Jenny Harries, Regional Director, for South of England, Public Health England said: Evidence shows that Be Clear on Cancer campaigns really do make a difference. The rise in the number of bladder and kidney cancers being picked up early is important; it is this early detection that saves lives.
It’s vital that we all do our bit to raise awareness that blood in pee could be an early sign of bladder or kidney cancer, and encourage anyone with this symptom to go to their GP. We know that people don’t always immediately visit their doctor if they spot blood in pee, which can be for a number of reasons. Some might ignore the symptoms, especially if it only happens once, or may pass the symptom off as cystitis. If you do notice blood in your pee, don’t wait for it to happen again before getting it checked out, visit your GP straight away.
BBC journalist and radio presenter, and kidney cancer survivor, Nicholas Owen, commented: I was extremely lucky because my tumour was found early. Early diagnosis saves lives, so everyone should look out for key symptoms, like blood in your pee. Don’t delay, the sooner you speak to your GP, the sooner you know what you’re dealing with.
Ian Lavender, actor and star of Dad’s Army who is a bladder cancer survivor, said: I’m supporting this year’s ‘blood in pee’ campaign as a survivor of bladder cancer. It’s a simple message ‘look before you flush’ and make sure you go and see your GP if you notice blood in your pee. Spread the word, someone you know might have this symptom and reminding them to get it checked could save their life – it saved mine, and I’m 70 and still happy to be working.
The nationwide Be Clear on Cancer ‘blood in pee’ campaign will begin on Tuesday 16 February and run for 6 weeks.