Around 80,000 people will be diagnosed with bladder cancer in the USA this year – yet all too often it remains unrecognized by patients and clinicians alike.
Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network (BCAN) is working with partner organizations to change this, by turning May’s Bladder Cancer Awareness Month into a year-round campaign.
“The need for awareness is critical,” Stephanie Chisolm, director of education and research at BCAN, states. “Many patients tell us ‘I had no idea you could get cancer in the bladder until my doctor told me that was my diagnosis’.”
The problem is two-fold. Many people do not suspect bladder cancer when they might have signs such as blood in their urine or changes in their urgency or frequency of emptying their bladder. If patients are not older or do not have known risk factors, healthcare professionals often don’t look for it.
Knowing the symptoms is key
Spotting the symptoms, understanding the risk factors, such as smoking, and seeking specialist help as soon as possible are the core messages of May’s awareness campaign.
“We are really pushing during May to make sure patients know we are on their side, advocating for research, providing information and support,” declares Stephanie.
More than 25 dedicated walks are being held across the United States during the month. Educational podcasts and webinars are taking place, and landmarks such as Michigan’s Peace Bridge and Niagara Falls are being lit up orange to mark the occasion.
Supporters are asked to share content on social media and even use outdoor lights to turn their homes orange to spread awareness about the disease.
Singing the same tune
But the view of advocacy groups needs to be more long-range, Stephanie points out. BCAN is a founding member of the newly formed World Bladder Cancer Patient Coalition, which aims to keep #BladderCancerAware trending the whole year through.
“Awareness activities happen in a big way in May, but it should be annual. That’s why #BladderCancerAware takes us out of the realm of being limited to one month,” says Stephanie.
The collation has been two years in the making, with BCAN’s counterparts Bladder Cancer Canada and Fight Bladder Cancer in the UK acting as fellow founding members.
Since it launched, in March, it has been adding new members at a phenomenal rate and now includes patient organizations from as far afield as Australia, Italy, France, and the Netherlands.
Stephanie states: “We have discussed what we could do during awareness month that is evergreen, and this theme unites us globally. It allows us to raise awareness and research funding to improve the lives of the bladder cancer community all year.”
“We are all singing the same tune with united voices that are ringing out around the world, and that makes it a powerful message.”
If BCAN, which was set up by John Quale, and his wife, Diane, in 2005 after John’s diagnosis, has one message for the public, it’s that anyone with blood in their urine should speak to their doctor.
“This Bladder Cancer Awareness Month there are many proactive things people can do to bring it up and discuss it. Talking about it is the first step.”
For more on BCAN and Bladder Cancer Awareness Month, click here.