Dr Jonathan Makanjuola explains why it’s important to “look before you flush”
A recent survey reveals that only 16% of adults aged 50 and over in England say they check the colour of their urine every time they go to the toilet, with women being less likely to check every time (12% vs 20% of men).
Blood in urine is a key symptom of bladder and kidney cancer but you’ll only notice blood in your urine if you look before you flush the toilet.
People may not be familiar with these cancers but over 8,000 people are diagnosed with bladder cancer in England each year and over 10,000 people are diagnosed with kidney cancer. These cancers can affect people of all ages, but are most common in people over 50.
You should visit your doctor if you have blood in your urine, even if it’s just once. Don’t just ignore it or think it’s something you’ve eaten and will go away or even try to self-medicate. The chances are it isn’t cancer, but it could be a sign of something else that needs treatment. If it is cancer, the sooner it is diagnosed the greater the chances of successful treatment. That’s why it’s important to pay attention to anything unusual happening to your body.
Women are less likely to look before they flush
Men are more likely to notice blood in their urine, as it isn’t the norm for women to check the toilet after they have urinated, but I would encourage women to look before they flush.
Some female patients have questioned how they can differentiate between menstrual blood and bleeding that could be a sign of bladder or kidney cancer. My advice would be that any woman who experiences bleeding that is unusual for them should see their doctor without delay.
Black people need to seek help early
In my experience people from African and Caribbean communities with possible symptoms of cancer tend to seek help late, potentially making the outcome much worse. There are often cultural and religious reasons preventing Black people from seeing their doctors early and this needs to change so that more lives can be saved.
Interestingly, this year over 250 places of worship including Black majority churches and mosques in England have lent their support to the Be Clear on Cancer campaign by displaying posters in their toilets encouraging their members to “look before they flush.” I hope this will have an impact and that more people seek medical help if they notice blood in their urine – it could save their life.
Dr Jonathan Makanjuola is supporting public Health England’s latest ‘Be Clear on Cancer’ campaign. He is a Consultant Urological Surgeon at King’s College Hospital, NHS Foundation Trust.
For further information about the signs and symptoms of bladder and kidney cancer, search ‘Be Clear on Cancer’.