‘Be Clear on Cancer’ campaign returns to highlight key symptom

Look before you flush

Public Health England (PHE) has relaunched its ‘Be Clear on Cancer’ campaign to raise awareness of a common symptom of kidney and bladder cancers – blood in the urine.

About 17,450 people in England are diagnosed with kidney or bladder cancer every year and 7,600 people die from these cancers each year. Blood in the urine may be an early indicator of the disease, and, as with all cancers, the earlier the disease is detected and treated, the better the outcome for patients.

Life-saving awareness

An analysis of diagnoses during past campaigns has revealed a “statistically significant increase” in the number of kidney and bladder cancers diagnosed at pre-cancerous and early stages as well as a reduction in late-stage diagnoses.

PHE says those diagnosed with an early stage 1 kidney cancer have an 84% chance of surviving five years or more with treatment, and 77% of stage 1 bladder cancer patients will survive five or more years. However, survival rates drop dramatically for those diagnosed with a late stage 4 cancer – as low as 10% for kidney cancer and 8% for bladder cancer, highlighting just how crucial early detection and prompt treatment can be.

While primarily aimed at men and women aged 50 or over, the campaign seeks to reinforce to people of any age that blood in the urine is not normal, and even if it happens ‘just the once’, to see a GP for a check-up.

‘Look before you flush’

Look before you flush toilet

This year’s campaign includes new advice to ‘look before you flush’, particularly for women, who may be less likely to notice any changes.

Dr Jenny Harries, Regional Director, for South of England, Public Health England says that evidence shows that the ‘Be Clear on Cancer’ campaigns really do make a difference, helping people to notice the signs and see their GP sooner. She says: “It’s vital that we all do our bit to raise awareness that blood in pee could be an early sign of bladder or kidney cancer, and encourage anyone with this symptom to go to their GP. We know that people don’t always immediately visit their doctor if they spot blood in pee, which can be for a number of reasons. Some might ignore the symptoms, especially if it only happens once, or may pass the symptom off as cystitis. If you do notice blood in your pee, don’t wait for it to happen again before getting it checked out, visit your GP straight away.”

Nicholas Owen Be Clear on Cancer Campaign

BBC journalist and radio presenter, and kidney cancer survivor, Nicholas Owen, is supporting the campaign. He says: “I was extremely lucky because my tumour was found early. Early diagnosis saves lives, so everyone should look out for key symptoms, like blood in your pee. Don’t delay, the sooner you speak to your GP, the sooner you know what you’re dealing with.”

Ian Lavender, actor and star of Dad’s Army who is a bladder cancer survivor, says: “I’m supporting this year’s ‘blood in pee’ campaign as a survivor of bladder cancer. It’s a simple message ‘look before you flush’ and make sure you go and see your GP if you notice blood in your pee. Spread the word, someone you know might have this symptom and reminding them to get it checked could save their life - it saved mine, and I’m 70 and still happy to be working.”

Know the signs

Blood in the urine is just one of the possible symptoms to watch out for. While some symptoms may not always mean cancer, and could be caused by, for example, kidney stones or an infection, a visit to the GP is still necessary.

Other symptoms which require a visit to the GP include:

Bladder cancer:

  • Cystitis that is difficult to treat or recurs quickly after treatment
  • Pain when urinating

Kidney cancer:

  • A persistent pain in the side below the ribs
  • Weight loss

For more information on the symptoms of kidney and bladder cancer, visit nhs.uk/be-clear-on-cancer.

Reducing your risk – how can I avoid kidney or bladder cancer?

PHE says smoking increases the risk of developing both kidney and bladder cancer, as does being overweight or obese. Exposure to certain chemicals in the workplace can also increase the risk.

A healthy lifestyle is one of the best ways to reduce the risk of developing most cancers, visit NHS Choices and Live Healthy for wellbeing advice and tips.


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