Low awareness of bladder cancer is 'disappointing'

In collaboration with the Press Association

Most people have a poor understanding of the symptoms and causes of bladder cancer, according to new research from Action on Bladder Cancer (ABC), a UK charity.

The charity carried out a national survey which found that only five per cent of respondents understood that smoking is a main cause of the disease.

The survey found more than half of people polled did not know what caused the disease, with a fifth believing alcohol rather than tobacco to be the biggest risk factor.

Furthermore, a quarter were unable to identify a single symptom of the disease.

The charity said the findings highlighted poor awareness among the general public about the condition, which affects more than 10,000 Britons every year.

Despite this lack of knowledge, bladder cancer is the fourth most common in men, and is just outside the 10 most-common forms among women.

The organisation backed a Department of Health campaign, Be Clear On Cancer, aimed at boosting people's knowledge of the symptoms and risk factors of cancer.

Bladder Cancer Awareness Day, a global campaign aimed at helping people understand more about the condition, also takes place this Saturday.

Mr Colin Bunce, Chair of ABC and Consultant Urologist in Barnet, said: "We don't expect everyone to be an expert, but such a huge lack of understanding can lead to people being mis-diagnosed and/or diagnosed at a later stage in the disease which can narrow down the best treatment choices.

"Over the last 15-20 years bladder cancer has been in the shadows. Greater public attention is urgently needed to improve understanding about the disease so that people know when and where to go for help."

The charity says that boosting people's understanding of bladder cancer and its profile among researchers may improve treatment and prevention rates.

But awareness was increasing in some areas. The number of people recognising blood in the urine as a symptom rose by five per cent between 2010 and this year to reach 55 per cent of survey respondents overall.

In the last two years, the number of people recognising chemotherapy and radiotherapy as treatment options rose as well.

Dr Emily Power, Cancer Research UK's health information manager, agreed that the low awareness was "disappointing", and said that while the public shouldn't be expected to remember long lists, it was crucial to improve public knowledge.

"The common signs and symptoms, like blood in urine, can be easily spotted and we encourage people to report any problems to their doctor promptly," she said.

"Thankfully, more and more people are surviving bladder cancer these days, with around half of patients now surviving 10 years or more, compared to around a third in the 1970s. But around 5000 people still die from the disease each year in the UK, so there's still a lot of work left to do.

"That's why Cancer Research UK is working closely with the department of health on the National Awareness and Early Diagnosis Initiative (NAEDI), to help promote the early diagnosis of cancer," she added.

Copyright Press Association 2012