Cancer patients unite to call for increased awareness of bladder cancer

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

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Approximately 430,000 people are newly diagnosed with invasive bladder cancer around the world each year.1 Globally, there are 2.7 million people who are currently living with bladder cancer2, write Dr Lydia E Makaroff and Antonella Cardone.

Dr Lydia E Makaroff, CEO at Fight Bladder Cancer and vice president of the World Bladder Cancer Patient Coalition; Antonella Cardone is the director of the European Cancer Patient Coalition.

In the Western world, bladder cancer is the fourth most common malignancy in men and the eighth most common in women.3  About 1 in 25 Western men and 1 in 80 Western women will be diagnosed with bladder cancer sometime in their lives.2 Women are 23% more likely to die from the disease compared to men with bladder cancer.4

Early diagnosis is key to improving survival rates in bladder cancer. When diagnosed at its earliest stage, more than 80% of people with bladder cancer will survive their disease for 5 years or more5. General practitioners (family doctors) are not always aware of the symptoms of bladder cancer, such as blood in the urine and recurrent urinary tract infections. As a result, opportunities to spot this cancer early are being missed, especially in women who have a consistently lower survival rate than men.

The month of May is bladder cancer awareness month. In 2019, the bladder cancer awareness campaign is focused on educating, raising awareness, and making sure that bladder cancer is no longer a forgotten disease. Throughout the month of May, cancer patient organisations shared facts, statistics, risk factors and symptoms during national events and on social media. The European Cancer Patient Coalition has worked in collaboration with Fight Bladder Cancer to create a toolkit to help organisations raise awareness of bladder cancer. The toolkit contained useful guidance and tools including inspiration on what to post and explanations on relevant tools and suggested activities.

The European Cancer Patient Coalition’s White Paper on Bladder Cancer6 worked with Fight Bladder Cancer, Associazione Palinuro Italy, and the European Association of Urology to produce eight policy recommendations:

  1. Ensure people diagnosed with bladder cancer have access to multidisciplinary units involving: nurses, urologists, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, pathologists, radiologists, psycho-oncologists, physiotherapists, nutritionists, and palliative care experts.
  2. Continue to reduce tobacco consumption in Europe – the main cause of bladder cancer.
  3. Raise awareness of bladder cancer risk factors and early symptoms amongst clinicians and high-risk groups.
  4. Consider initiatives to reduce and monitor the exposure to carcinogenic chemicals.
  5. Ensure occupational health and safety legislation encourages continuous health surveillance for those at high risk of developing occupational cancers, as well as improved prevention measures and timely access to diagnosis, treatment, and care.
  6. Invest in research to identify the best approach to early detection in high risk groups.
  7. Address the lack of resources available for bladder cancer, including research funding and reimbursement of medicines
  8. Ensure all health professionals are trained in bladder cancer risk factors to enable them to make connections between exposure and disease.

This White Paper on Bladder Cancer was presented to the European Parliament, and has since been presented to key national stakeholders by Members of the European Cancer Patient Coalition in Greece, Italy, Poland, Turkey, and the United Kingdom.

By bringing patient groups, health professionals, and policy-makers together, we can all work towards earlier diagnosis, increased awareness, and better communication, in order to improve the care of Europeans diagnosed with bladder cancer.

There is more information about bladder cancer at and at


  1. Antoni, et al. Bladder Cancer Incidence and Mortality: A Global Overview and Recent Trends; 2017; European Urology, 71(1): 96
  2. Pezaro C, et al. Urothelial Cancers: using biology to improve outcomes. Expert Review of Anticancer Therapy; 2012; 12(1):87-98
  3. World Health Organisation. GLOBOCAN: estimated cancer incidence, mortality, and prevalence worldwide; 2012; World Health Organisation: Geneva
  4. European Cancer Patient Coalition. Bladder Cancer White Paper; 2016; European Cancer Patient Coalition: Brussels
  5. Ferlay J, Soerjomataram I, Dikshit R, et al. Cancer incidence and mortality worldwide: Sources, methods and major patterns in GLOBOCAN 2012: Globocan 2012. Int J Cancer. 2015;136(5):E359-E386. doi:10.1002/ijc.29210
  6. European Cancer Patient Coalition. Bladder Cancer White Paper; 2016; European Cancer Patient Coalition: Brussels

For more information about the authors or bladder cancer, please contact Clémence Morinière Tel: +32 (0) 2 342 01 04  Email: or Lydia Makaroff: Tel: +44 1844 351621  Email:

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