Seventy-four thousand men and women are diagnosed with bladder cancer every year in the United States. It remains the sixth most common cancer overall and in men, it’s even more common. That’s why experts say it’s crucial to know the signs and symptoms, some of which can be subtle.
Richard Clendaniel is a retired Maryland school teacher. Until recently, he still worked with students running the light and sound systems for high school graduations.
“To have them realize that they were going into the next phase of their life and it was really, really special,” Clendaniel told Ivanhoe.
During graduation season three years ago, Clendaniel had a sudden change in his health — blood in his urine.
“If it was one day, it was one thing, but then it lasted all week,” Clendaniel explained.
Clendaniel was diagnosed with bladder cancer and treated with biotherapy, boosting his body’s ability to fight.
“For a cancer that is in the top five in men, we really don’t hear very much about it,” William Isaacs, PhD, professor of urology at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, told Ivanhoe.
When caught early, doctors say bladder cancer can be cured. Blood in the urine is the most obvious sign. Other symptoms include changes in urinary habits and pain in the back and pelvic area.
Men are three times more likely than women to get bladder cancer. Exposure to cigarette smoke and working in chemical, leather or rubber industries also increases the risk.
Professor Isaacs says high-risk individuals may benefit from drinking a lot of water since carcinogens are concentrated in urine.
“If they’re sitting there in the bladder, you can minimize that time by sort of flushing the system out,” he said.
Clendaniel fought the cancer and is in remission.
“Be aware of what’s happening to your body,” he said.
He’s hoping others will educate themselves so they recognize the sometimes subtle signs.
Patients with early stage bladder tumors often undergo surgery to remove them, but this type of cancer can often recur. Sometimes surgeons remove the entire bladder to avoid recurrence, but this type of surgery can have major side effects. Experts say it’s important to monitor bladder cancer patients for the development of new tumors.