Compared to cancers of the lung, breast and prostate, bladder cancer gets relatively low billing when it comes public awareness. But the disease affects around 3000 Australians each year, with more than 1000 people dying from it. While the survival for most other cancers has improved in Australia, for bladder cancer this has decreased over time.
A scary thought, and one that West Australian photographer Steve Ferrier is grappling with after being diagnosed with the disease in July 2018.
Another relative positive in Steve's situation is that he's able to take part in a new treatment trial using immunotherapy combined with chemotherapy.
"I was asked if I would be interested in taking part in the study by my specialist," he explains. "All it involves is filling out quality of life surveys. The big plus side, especially when you are in the public system, is you have an excellent point of contact in the clinical research nurse. My GP and I have a direct number to her, if there are any questions regard treatment, symptoms or other complications."
Bladder cancer predominantly affects men over 60, but other risk factors include workplace exposure to certain chemicals, diabetes, family history and smoking.
"I was a heavy smoker for many years," Steve says. "I gave up cigarettes over 2 years ago, but it still got me. If you have any of the symptoms of bladder cancer, don’t delay in getting it checked out. The earlier the diagnosis the better the outcome."
The most common symptom of bladder cancer is blood in the urine. Other less common symptoms include:
- problems emptying the bladder
- a burning feeling when passing urine
- need to pass urine often
- blood in urine
- lower abdominal or back pain
"I’m quietly confident that I will come through it all," Steve says. "There is definitely depression and stress which goes hand in hand with all cancer. It feels like last July when I was diagnosed, I took in a deep breath and held it, nearly 12 months later I’m still holding it. Hopefully in 6 months I’ll get to breathe out again."
If you'd like more information about Urogenital and Prostate Cancer cancer trials head to ANZUP.org.au.