Bladder cancer: the symptoms you shouldn’t ignore

One patient shares his experience being diagnosed with a disease he knew nothing about.

A recent survey showed that almost two-thirds of adults are unaware of the signs of bladder cancer, with 10% having never even heard of the disease.1 Yet bladder cancer is one of the top 10 most common cancers in the world.2

One of the groups of people most at risk of bladder cancer are older men5 and this proved true for Dave from Torquay, UK.

Dave was diagnosed with bladder cancer in 2008 when he was aged 61. At the time of diagnosis, he knew nothing about the disease or its signs and symptoms. Based on his experiences he is keen to raise awareness about bladder cancer, by sharing his story.

“It was Christmas Eve and we had finished dinner,” explains Dave. “After dinner, I went to the toilet and I noticed my urine was blood red. It was a real shock. Immediately, I told my wife as soon as I discovered blood in my urine - we both didn’t know what to do.” Although Dave didn’t know it at the time, this was a symptom of bladder cancer. In fact, the most common.3,5 Other symptoms include abdominal pain, lower back pain and bladder irritation. 3,5

Dave was quick to act once he spotted the change in his urine. He explains, “As soon as my doctor’s surgery opened after Christmas, I booked an appointment and was referred straight away. Within a couple of days I went to see a urologist.”

On reflection, Dave now acknowledges that he had experienced symptoms long before Christmas Eve, he just did not realise that he was spotting blood in his urine: “My urologist asked whether I had noticed that my urine had become a bit darker over the last six months and I said it had.”

But, the reality was that Dave didn’t know what to look out for and on several occasions noticed his urine changing colour. “When my urine was becoming darker I did not assume blood was present, I blamed the red wine or beetroot I had eaten. In my mind, these occasional symptoms were nothing to worry about, that was, until my urine was blood red.”

We all know to check our bodies for unusual lumps, but there are many stories like Dave’s. It is clear more needs to be done to educate the public on a condition which claims the lives of 165,000 people globally each year.2

Bladder cancer is defined by the growth of abnormal tissues in the lining of the organ.3 In some cases, it spreads to the surrounding muscles and organs, known as metastatic bladder cancer. At this stage a patient’s chance of survival is considerably lower, only 5%.4

Being diagnosed with bladder cancer caused a real change in Dave: “When I heard the word cancer, it was like being hit with a cricket bat. My whole perspective on life changed. I became so much more aware of things that mattered to me like spending time with my family.”

Bladder cancer awareness month started in the US over a decade ago. It was in answer to a lack of public awareness, advocacy and research into bladder cancer at that time. Taking place in May each year, the awareness month has been adopted by patient advocacy organisations across the world, to tackle this deadly disease.

Recognising the most common symptoms of bladder cancer is the first key step to patient empowerment. It is important, particularly for those at risk (people 65+, specifically men and smokers), to be aware of the signs and act quickly. Responding to symptoms quickly can lead to earlier diagnosis, treatment and increase chances of survival.

96% of patients will still be alive after five years if diagnosed in the early stage, before the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.6

That’s why Roche is launching the We Care Campaign alongside bladder cancer awareness month. In partnership with the European Cancer Patient Coalition, the campaign aims to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of bladder cancer, by providing clear information and support.

To show your support and join the conversation, please visit the We Care website and sign-up to the We Care pledge, to share our campaign message.


  1. The 2017 We Care survey was edited and distributed by Atomik Research, London, UK from the 6 – 23 January 2017

  2. World Health Organization. GLOBOCAN 2012: Estimated cancer incidence, mortality and prevalence worldwide. Available at:Last accessed November 2016

  3. National Cancer Institute. Bladder Cancer Treatment (PDQ®)–Patient Version [document on the Internet]. Bethesda, MD; 2016 [cited 2016 Nov 21]. Available from:

  4. National Cancer Institute. SEER Cancer Statistics Review, 1975-2011 [document on the Internet]. Bethesda, MD; 2011 [cited 2016 Nov 21]. Available from:

  5. Patient. Bladder Cancer. Available at:Last accessed November 2016.

  6. National Cancer Institute. SEER Stat Fact Sheets: Bladder Cancer. Available at:Last accessed March 2017

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