DOCTORS are piloting a new strategy to tackle kidney and bladder cancer in the North East – illnesses which claim up to 550 lives a year.
Through adverts and a TV campaign, medics hope more people will get into the habit of checking for blood in their urine to ensure symptoms of the potentially fatal cancers are detected early.
The Be Clear on Cancer ‘Blood in Pee’ scheme launches today in the North East and Cumbria and already has support from patients who know firsthand the trauma of being diagnosed with cancer.
Carole Frost, 56, from Birtley, who has recently been given the all-clear from bladder cancer, said: “I think this is a really good idea because people don’t know about these things until sometimes it’s too late.
“For someone to say, ‘I’m sorry, you’ve got cancer’ is a big blow. It’s very hard to come to terms with, so anything that helps people to recognise the symptoms is important.”
Carole, who has also been treated for ovarian cancer, now works for various charities and a telephone helpline for people needing support.
She said: “I was so shocked when I was diagnosed. So many people think they are fit as a fiddle and then they take ill, are sent for scans and they find out it’s something serious.”
Medics decided to step up the fight against kidney and bladder cancer in the region after an online survey revealed only 24% would visit their GP after seeing blood in their urine.
Public Health Minister Anna Soubry said: “Many people don’t know the key signs of bladder and kidney cancers, which is why this campaign is so important.
“If caught at the earliest stage, one-year kidney and bladder cancer survival is as high as 88-95%, compared to just 22-35% at a late stage.”
“Our goal is to save an additional 5,000 lives every year from cancer by 2014 and we have invested over £450m to help diagnose and treat cancer earlier.”
Around 1,250 people in the North East and Cumbria are diagnosed with bladder or kidney cancer each year with 550 deaths a year.
Dr Debbie Ashcroft, a GP who features in the Be Clear on Cancer campaign, said: “Blood in your pee could be an early sign of kidney or bladder cancer. If you notice it, even if it happens just the once, don’t make excuses, make an appointment with your doctor.
“You’re not wasting your doctor’s time; they will want to hear from you and it’s much better to be sure, if only to put your mind at rest.”
Other kidney cancer symptoms include a pain below the ribs that won’t go away, a lump in the stomach and other bladder cancer symptoms include needing to urinate very often or very suddenly and pain while urinating.
The pilot will run for nine weeks with TV and radio adverts as well as awareness raising events, targeting people over the age of 50 across the North East.
For more information on the signs and symptoms of bladder and kidney cancer visit www.nhs.uk/bloodinpee