Experts have called on the British Asian community to be proactive and to ignore “cultural concerns” and seek expert medical advice if they suspect they have cancer.
Just one in three patients survive bladder or kidney cancer beyond 12 months if diagnosed at a late stage – an issue that continues to blight the British Asian community where cultural and religious anxieties often stop people from seeking expert advice at the first sign of cancer.
According to research, many British Asian patients ignore the first signs of bladder and kidney cancer – two of the most prevalent forms of the disease in Britain – due to a strong fear of cancer and a misconception that the disease is incurable.
Patients often ignore the first signs of the disease – including blood in urine – and only seek medical advice if the symptoms persist.
Dr Anant Sachdev, who features in Public Health England’s ‘Be Clear on Cancer’ campaign, said: “It’s important for people from all communities to be aware of the symptoms of bladder and kidney cancer, especially where cultural, language and religious barriers exist.
“The message is simple, if you notice blood in your urine, even if it’s just the once, tell your doctor.”
Dr Sachdev says early examinations and referrals allow the NHS to easily diagnose and treat patients.
“It’s very straightforward for your doctor to examine you and decide whether to arrange further tests. If your doctor suspects it might be bladder or kidney cancer, you will be urgently referred to a hospital and they will then organise the tests, and, if necessary, treatment.
“You will either get reassurance that it isn’t cancer, or if it is, you will have a better chance of successful treatment.”
One British Asian cancer survivor echoed Dr Sachdev’s sentiments.
Jyoti Howe, a bladder cancer survivor from Greenford, West London, had been preparing to travel on holiday to Mauritius when she noticed blood in her urine.
The healthy and fit 51-year-old at first thought that it was her menstrual cycle although the dates didn’t fit.
When the bleeding persisted, she decided to visit her GP.
“I had no idea it was a symptom of bladder cancer. It’s funny the diagnosis had no effect. I felt that they must have got it wrong as it can’t be cancer. I kept waiting for them to tell me it’s a mistake.”
She was immediately referred to her local NHS trust for tests which confirmed that she did have cancer.
“I was lucky that it was caught early and hadn’t spread through my bladder walls. I can’t believe people won’t go to their doctor if they are bleeding”, Ms Howe says.
After an intensive treatment program, she was cleared and has been cancer-free for two years.
“Don’t ignore it thinking it will go away. See your doctor straight away. I’m living proof that bladder cancer is more treatable if caught early”, Ms Howe said.
Ms Howe has since become one of the faces of the ‘Be Clear on Cancer’ campaign.
Professor Kevin Fenton, Director of Health and Wellbeing at Public Health England, said the campaign seeks to encourage the public to go to their doctors straight away if they notice blood in urine.
“Bladder and kidney cancers are more treatable if they are found early. We need to continue to address the barriers that prevent people from presenting early to their doctor so that we can save more lives across all sections of society”.
On average, 17,000 people are diagnosed with either bladder or kidney cancer every year with around 7500 people dying from these diseases.
Blood in urine is the main symptom for bladder cancer and a common symptom for kidney cancer.
Other bladder cancer symptoms include frequent visits to the bathroom as well as a sudden urge to pee and pain while passing urine.
Kidney cancer symptoms include a persistent pain below the ribs and a lump in your stomach.
For more information, visit nhs.uk/bloodinpee