an awareness campaign launched against bladder cancer

an awareness campaign launched against bladder cancer
an awareness campaign launched against bladder cancer

Bladder cancer affects between 13,000 and 20,000 new people each year and causes around 5,000 deaths.

“Red urine, I’m moving!” The French Association of Urology (AFU) is launching an awareness campaign to fight against bladder cancer during the month of May. Much less known than prostate cancer, bladder cancer nevertheless affects between 13,000 and 20,000 new people each year and causes around 5,000 deaths.

If it concerns more men aged 60 and smokers, it does not spare women. Around “a quarter of patients are women” and their “proportion is increasing”, according to the president of the Cancer Vessie France patients’ association, Lori Cirefice.

“You have to dare, you have to go, you have to consult”

This is the case for Sarah, who was diagnosed with this 7 years ago. “I had blood in my urine, and that alerted me, at first I thought it was perhaps a problem with the (menstrual) cycle, I didn’t really ask myself the question, I left it hanging around for a month or two, I went to see my general practitioner and he then referred me to a urologist,” she tells BFMTV.

After tests and an ultrasound, she learned that she was suffering from bladder cancer for which she had to have surgery. Now a member of the AFU, she wants to raise public awareness of the importance of early diagnosis.

“It is unfortunately a disease which is still very little known by the public, it is quite difficult to talk about these parts of the body because it is intimate, but you have to dare, you have to go there, you have to consult,” encourages -she.

In the absence of a valid systematic screening method, red flags are crucial. The presence of blood in the urine is the most common symptom. But it can also manifest itself as repeated cystitis, without infection detected when looking for microbes in the urine, or urination problems.

Bladder cancer “affects men more often but it is often more serious in women, because symptoms can be misinterpreted and delay the diagnosis”, points out Benjamin Pradère, member of the AFU oncology committee.

Consult “if in doubt”

A scenario experienced by Catherine. “After a bypass (bariatric surgery, editor’s note), I often had blood in my urine. The treating doctor thought it was linked to the operation. It didn’t go away. They sent me to see a gynecologist, who thought of micro periods, because I had an IUD”, she told AFP.

“It dragged on, until contractions and constant pressure on the bladder. Return to the gynecologist, ultrasound, always the hypothesis of micro periods, or urinary infections. After a year, I could no longer hold back “going to the toilet. An MRI finally showed a large mass in the bladder”, recalls this 51-year-old Alsatian.

Then, everything happened: “8 hours of operation” to remove “the mass”, announcement of an infiltrating cancer, removal of the bladder, uterus and lymph nodes, chemotherapy and immunotherapy. The former childminder, who does not know “when and where” she will be able to work again “one day”, “no longer has the same life with a bag” (to replace the bladder) and, “not safe from escape”, “carries around with spare clothes and protection”.

“Daily life is fine, but a little too much physical effort triggers stomach cramps,” adds Catherine, who advises, “especially women,” to consult “if there is the slightest doubt.”

A link between smoking and bladder cancer

Among the risk factors, tobacco comes first. The body expels toxins present in the blood via urine, stored in the bladder before evacuation.

“This link between smoking and bladder cancer is little known,” testified Lori Cirefice.

In Europe, the frequency of this cancer has increased in recent years “not only due to an increase in detections, but also an increase in smokers”, according to Benjamin Pradère.

Also be careful with cannabis, warned Yann Neuzillet, surgeon and member of the AFU oncology committee: “young patients arrive for consultation after having been exposed to improbable carcinogens through the consumption of cannabis (…) combined with sometimes n ‘anything, tires, cement…’.

Immunotherapy to strengthen the body’s defenses

More widespread, “certain exposures, particularly occupational, can lead to bladder cancer: rubber, dyes, paints, cosmetics, certain hydrocarbons, pesticides in large agricultural regions”, underlined Benjamin Pradère. If these carcinogens are less present than 20 or 30 years ago in the world of work, people previously exposed remain at risk.

In the therapeutic arsenal, several innovations revolve around immunotherapy, which consists of strengthening the body’s defenses against disease.

For patients at a locally advanced stage or with metastases, antibodies targeting certain molecules of cancer cells (“antibody drug conjugates”, ADCs) also seem promising, in combination with chemotherapy and immunotherapy, according to recent studies.

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