U.K. researchers say earlier diagnoses of bladder cancer needed, especially among women

Women generally fare better than men after developing cancer, but research presented at the Cancer Outcomes Conference in Belfast, Northern Ireland, found that the reverse is true among sufferers of bladder cancer. The information has led to a U.K. public advertising campaign to raise awareness of the disease.

Using registry data, a team from the U.K.'s National Cancer Intelligence Network found that among those who suffer from bladder cancer, men have a 77% one-year survival rate and 64% 5-year survival rate, compared to 58% and 47%, respectively, for women.

Public Health England, an agency of the U.K.'s Department of Health, attributes this atypical finding to sex-based differences in bladder cancer diagnosis, saying women are more likely to suffer from rare types of bladder cancer that are harder to diagnose.

In addition, a quarter of diagnoses in females are made during an emergency situation, and they are 30% more likely than men to be diagnosed with the most advanced stages of bladder cancer. That makes them less likely candidates for bladder removal surgery (cystectomy) or radical radiotherapy for localized cases of the disease.

"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," Julia Verne, leader of Public Health England's National Cancer Intelligence Network, said in a news release.

The good news is that the Be Clear on Cancer Blood in Pee campaign appears to have been successful. Bladder cancer diagnoses resulting from urgent referrals increased 8.2% following the TV advertisements in 2013. The program was expanded in 2014.

There is a need for a definitive bladder cancer diagnostic. Public Health England just recommended against a national screening program for the disease in the U.K.

"No test was identified which would be suitable for use in a screening programme. Blood in the urine remains a poor predictor of bladder cancer. The possibility of improving this by detecting blood in combination with different elements in the urine had been explored. These approaches would still result in a large number of people being falsely identified as having cancer," the agency says, adding that genetic tests are still in the early stages of development.

Public Health England also recommended against national screening programs for depression in adults and screening newborn babies for amino acid metabolism disorders, fatty-acid oxidation disorders and galactosaemia.

- read the news release about the latest research
- and the news release about the recommendation