The NHS has an on-going 'Be Clear on Cancer' campaign that is currently raising awareness of key signs and symptoms of bladder and kidney cancers and urges those who spot the key indicator of blood in their urine to act without delay. The campaign is running on TV, radio and in print and is supported by West Bromwich Albion and singer, Peter Andre, whose brother died of the disease last year.
The signs and symptoms of these particular cancers are often evident at an early stage but many people do not seek medical help early enough, whether through ignorance or fear. From the experience of the clinical negligence team at Penningtons Manches, people who do seek medical help often fail to detail some of the important symptoms through inhibition or lack of appreciation of the significance. In turn, from our experience, GPs can be quick to dismiss such symptoms, especially in younger patients.
Recent statistics compiled by Cancer Research UK have shown a worrying upward trend in diagnosed cases of kidney cancer over the last decade. Around 3.500 people died from the disease in 2011, the latest year for which data are available. The incidence of the disease has jumped by nearly a third in ten years. The risk of these cancers is higher in smokers and associated with obesity and poor lifestyle.
This latest campaign highlights that blood in urine – even just once – can be a symptom of kidney or bladder cancer and needs to be acted on straightaway. Other causes for concern include increased frequency or excessive pain passing urine. Public Health England reports that blood in urine is a key indicator in over 80% of bladder cancer cases and more than half of kidney cancers yet a recent survey suggested that 30% of people do not visit their GP until after seeing the signs more than once.
Delayed diagnosis is associated with reduced chances of survival and the new campaign urges patients to see their GP as soon as they spot key signs. These may prove to be benign but, if they are more insidious, then early detection and treatment are key. Current survival rates for kidney cancer are just over 70% at one year and 54% at five years but could be higher and are well behind some other European countries. Survival rates increase dramatically the earlier the disease is detected. It is estimated that around 1,000 deaths a year could be avoided if UK survival rates matched the best in Europe.
Andrew Clayton, associate in Penningtons Manches’ clinical negligence team, supports the project saying: "Any campaign that educates people on the signs and symptoms to watch for and makes clear when they need to seek medical help is welcome. We also deal with negligence claims where symptoms are reported but not acted upon and we know from experience that patients whose diagnosis is delayed face greater risks and potentially fatal consequences. Raising awareness and early intervention are key to improving survival and may even reduce the overall demand on the NHS."