Bladder cancer, which is often detected by blood in the urine, is one of the top five cancers in South African men, affecting about three times more men than women and twice as many white than black males, according to research.
And, a recent study shows that women have a lower survival rate than men for bladder cancer which affects about 1 in 147 SA males, mostly older than 55, and around 1 in 88 females.
Research shows that smoking causes about half of all bladder cancers due to toxins from cigarettes accumulating in the urine and damaging the bladder lining. Obesity, age and exposure to certain chemicals sometimes used in the leather, petroleum and printing industries are also risk factors.
Urologist, Dr Hugo van der Merwe from The Urology Hospital, Pretoria, says the most common symptoms are blood in urine, burning when urinating and a need to urinate frequently.
He advises those showing these symptoms to consult a urologist. “Most bladder cancers are less aggressive and easily treatable. Like all cancers, the prognosis depends on the level or stage of the cancer,” added van der Merwe.
He said screening may include laboratory testing, cystoscopy, biopsy and image tests. A certain sub-group of bladder cancers -- about 20% -- are more aggressive and may require a combination of chemotherapy and surgery.
In these cases, the goal is to preserve the bladder although surgical removal is sometimes necessary. The Urology Hospital, which acquired SA’s first robotic surgical system, offers robotic surgery for bladder cancer which is less invasive than conventional procedures, reduces morbidity and enhances faster recovery.
Once treated, bladder cancer may recur, requiring frequent follow-up examinations.
Van der Merwe said a balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle plays a major role in reducing the risk of bladder cancer.