Common UTI symptom could be tell-tale sign of deadly cancer

More than half of women – and a tenth of men – in the UK will suffer from at least one urinary tract infection (UTI) at some point in their lives – but common symptoms could signal something much more serious.

Many warning signs of bladder cancer overlap with UTI symptoms, meaning red flags of the deadly illness are often overlooked. Bladder cancer is one of the ten most common cancers in the UK, with over 20,500 people diagnosed with the devastating disease every year.

Around 25 percent of all bladder cancer cases are diagnosed at a later stage, which is concerning as the disease has a high mortality rate of around 50 percent. But some vague signs of bladder cancer are often masked as UTIs, including blood in your urine and pain in your tummy (abdomen).

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It’s important that people know all the symptoms so they can catch the cruel disease in its initial stages – especially as there is an 80 percent survival rate if caught early enough.

According to Cancer Research UK, other warning signs that are often mistaken include:

  • Blood in your urine

  • Pain in your bones

  • Pain in your tummy (abdomen)

  • Shortness of breath

  • Lumps in your abdomen or neck

  • Yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes (jaundice)

Less common symptoms of bladder cancer include:

  • A need to urinate on a more frequent basis

  • Sudden urges to urinate

  • A burning sensation when passing urine

When to visit a GP

If you have noticed blood in your urine, it is advised that you visit a GP to have this investigated. It is important to note that blood in your wee doesn’t necessarily mean you have bladder cancer, instead you could have:

  • Urinary tract infections (UTIs), such as cystitis

  • A kidney infection

  • Kidney stones

  • Non-gonococcal urethritis

  • An enlarged prostate gland, in men

What causes bladder cancer?

Bladder cancer is a common type of cancer that begins in the cells of the bladder, explains the Mayo Clinic. It can be caused by exposure to harmful substances which lead to abnormal changes in the bladder’s cells over many years.

It’s estimated that more than a third of all cases are caused by smoking, with smokers being up to four times more likely to develop bladder cancer than non-smokers, writes the NHS.

Exposure to certain industrial chemicals is the second biggest risk factor, as studies have estimated this may account for around 25 percent of cases.

Other factors that can increase your risk of bladder cancer include:

  • Radiotherapy to treat previous cancers near the bladder, such as bowel cancer

  • Previous treatment with certain chemotherapy medications, such as cyclophosphamide and cisplatin

  • Certain treatments for type 2 diabetes

  • Having a tube in your bladder (an indwelling catheter) for a long time

  • Long-term or repeated urinary tract infections (UTIs)

  • Long-term bladder stones

  • An untreated infection called schistosomiasis (bilharzia), which is caused by a parasite that lives in fresh water – this is very rare in the UK

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