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World Cancer Day: shining a spotlight on bladder cancer

04 Feb 2020

We need to raise awareness of all types of cancer

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Press Office

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Today, on World Cancer Day, the spotlight will most likely be on breast cancer and lung cancer.

What we probably won’t see is any discussion about bladder cancer.

There are various reasons – it’s seen as embarrassing to talk about and it usually affects older people.

But bladder cancer is the 4th most common cancer in men, and the 5th most common in women.

And when it touches your family, it’s still devastating.

My Mum is in her 80’s. She still strong and vital, and to me she’s always seemed indestructible.

So it was a shock – a horrible, sickening shock – when she was diagnosed with bladder cancer.

We knew nothing about the condition. It wasn’t something you could easily find out information about. Even with your close family, talking about issues with your pee can be awkward.

We soon found out that Mum might well have an occupational disease. She worked in the textiles industry for many years, and there are clear links to workers who used chemicals in dyes and inks.

GMB does an excellent job of raising awareness around mesothelioma – the cancer caused by asbestos. Bladder cancer is a bit like asbestos diseases.

GMB does an excellent job of raising awareness around mesothelioma – the cancer caused by asbestos.

Bladder cancer is a bit like asbestos diseases.

It’s what’s called a long-latency disease, where the symptoms only start to happen many years after the exposure.

It was linked to the print industry for many years, but more recently increased rates of bladder cancer have been identified in the gas industry, hairdressing, firefighting, food preparation workers, and electronic assembly workers.

There may also be increased risks for call centre workers, drivers, and other workers who can’t easily go to the toilet during their working time.

Want more information?

Visit Fight Bladder Cancer

One of the biggest problems is a lack of research – in to causes of bladder cancer; occupational risks; prevention; and potential cure.

Many of the symptoms – needing to pee a lot; weight loss; tiredness; lower back and/or abdomen pain; and incontinence – are seen as natural signs of old age. It’s only when there’s blood in the urine that alarm bells ring and the appointment with the GP is made.

My Mum was lucky that her symptoms were picked up quickly and she was treated. This is not often the case, and a big problem is that the cancer isn’t diagnosed until it’s having a serious effect.

That’s why I was proud to help get a motion on bladder cancer passed at GMB Congress in 2019. It’s why I’m working with the charity Fight Bladder Cancer, and Lynsey & Dan in the National Health and Safety department to get a campaign going across the whole of GMB. And it’s why I’m writing this today.

GMB is committed to raising this as an issue. But for today, if you or anyone you know either has bladder cancer, or has any of the symptoms, take a look at fightbladdercancer.co.uk

I know GMB is committed to raising this as an issue. But for today, if you or anyone you know either has bladder cancer, or has any of the symptoms, take a look at fightbladdercancer.co.uk.

There’s a lot of information on the FBC website to help answer a whole range of questions and concerns. If you are worried about any of the symptoms, do go and see your GP – it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

We think there are a lot of people like Mum, who may have been exposed without realising it, and may have the symptoms beginning to develop. We also think there may be lots more cases of work-related bladder cancer that are currently recorded.
 

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One of the things GMB will do is work to get a picture of how many members - in particular retired members - have experience of bladder cancer, and their work histories.

I’m very lucky that Mum was treated and is still with us. Not everyone is. 50 years ago, GMB was at the front of the campaign to tackle asbestos diseases.

On World Cancer Day, let this be the start a new campaign on bladder cancer, so that workers like my Mum are the last generation to have to live with a disease that needs to be talked about and tackled.

Mum fought bladder cancer off – and we can all do our bit to fight it by educating ourselves, talking to our colleagues and friends, and campaigning to eradicate it once and for all.

 
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