- Bladder cancer, the 7th most common cancer in France, affects between 13,000 and 15,000 patients each year and remains largely unknown to the general public.
- A survey carried out by Opinion Way for Merck and the Cancer Vessie France association indicates that only 28% of French people know this type of cancer.
- Risk factors, symptoms, treatments… A patient and an oncologist call back to 20 Minutes important information to raise awareness in society about this disease.
“I didn’t know it existed, the bladder cancer, I didn’t even know it was a muscle !, confides Frédéric Merlier. We hear about cancer of the breast, lung, prostate, pancreas… But the bladder, not so much. “For five years, this quadra has honed his knowledge, much obliged when, at 41 years, we discover a tumor in his bladder. He decided to set up in 2017, with other patients, an association, initially called
the Zuros and became Cancer Vessie France, to share empathy and knowledge. Also to make the general public aware of an unknown disease.
Indeed, according to a survey * from the laboratory Merck with
Opinion Way and this association, revealed exclusively by 20 Minutes, the French share a certain number of prejudices about this pathology. Granted, 68% have heard of bladder cancer. But only 28% say they know very well what type of cancer it is. And when we look into the details, there are a few truths worth remembering.
Stigma about bladder cancer
This pathology mainly affects men, more precisely 4 men for a woman. And people over 70. Two notions that seem rather acquired, if we are to believe this survey. On the other hand, only half of French people (58%) agree with the statement that it is one of the ten most common cancers, while it is the 7th for both sexes.
More seriously, 24% do not know what symptoms to watch for to prevent this pathology. And only 61% believe that tobacco consumption is an important cause … while it is the primary factor, responsible for two thirds of pathologies. “People also think that it is a cancer that can be treated well (two thirds of those questioned), whereas it depends on the depth and extent of the tumor, insists Frédéric Merlier. If it is superficial, the chances are better. On the other hand, when the tumor has reached the deep layers of the bladder, the prognosis is much more reserved. “In 20 to 30% of cases, the tumor which was superficial infiltrates the muscle,” says Yohann Loriot, oncologist at Gustave Roussy hospital. And among these patients, 50% have metastases, a stage that cannot be cured today. There are around 5,000 deaths per year in France. “
Raise awareness to avoid delay in diagnosis
What this doctor and this patient hope is to send an important message: you must consult when you find blood in your urine. Because diagnostic delay is very common. “I had a frequent urge to urinate, so I consulted, but I had no alert, says Frédéric Merlier. Eight years later, I discovered urinary bleeding. I did not try to understand, I immediately went to the emergency room. Unfortunately, they didn’t see anything. I was sent home. When I had another bleeding, the urologist ordered a bladder ultrasound, which revealed a polyp. In my misfortune, I was lucky, it was a superficial and not very aggressive tumor. And above all, I reacted very quickly. “
The problem is, recognizing this cancer is not easy. “In the vast majority of cases, the number one symptom is blood visible in the urine,” explains Yohann Loriot. However, this can have other explanations: kidney stones, urinary tract infections… ”Some patients therefore risk missing out, thinking they have a chronic urinary tract infection or staggered periods…
“Often, patients neglect bleeding in the urine, our patients arrive at the hospital sometimes six or nine months after the onset of symptoms,” continues the doctor. The bladder is not a noble organ, while the brain is associated with intelligence, the heart with love… ”
“It is a tumor which evolves quickly”
This is why it seems urgent to inform the general public. “There are few cases (between 13,000 and 15,000 per year in France), we do not talk about it in the media. There is no mainstream operation to raise funds for research (such as Movember for prostate cancer or
Pink October for the breast), regrets the doctor. This is a lack, because if we manage to take charge of this cancer early enough, we can guarantee a high cure rate. However, it is a tumor which evolves quickly. “
Especially since the treatments will be much less heavy if the disease is taken early. “The most serious cancers are treated by surgery, the bladder is removed and patients end up with a urinary bag,” said the oncologist. And a reduced quality of life. Above all, the doctor recalls that, despite the Covid-19 and
the new outbreak of contaminations, patients should not flee medical offices. “The hospital is organized to receive patients. It is better to consult to rule out or confirm a cancer diagnosis ”.
“You are not losing your hair, it is not a real cancer”
The association hopes, with this survey, to deconstruct certain clichés. When the diagnosis fell, Frédéric Merlier sought sympathetic ears and optimistic testimonies. “The family is absorbing some of the shock, but not all,” he breathes. Colleagues believe that we can go back to work: “you are not losing your hair, it’s not a real cancer” “. He then discovered an English forum, Fight bladder cancer, where patients support each other. “I said to myself that it would be good if it existed in France. Today, his association, the only one on bladder cancer, has 530 members on
la page facebook and a hundred members. “It is important to put words to the evils. There are people who are strong, others who fall apart. But discussing with other patients, it shows that some still have a life, can play sports … “
The association’s other objective is to alert authorities and public opinion to the problem of drug shortages. “We had to lobby to raise awareness of our double sentence: you have cancer and you’re bad, the treatment is not available. I’m not telling you the psychological state of the patients… ”What type of medication is missing? Surprisingly, a vaccine …
“In three quarters of cases, the tumor is superficial,” explains the oncologist. We take it off and then we do chemotherapy or we use BCG vaccine attenuated, injected into the bladder, which stimulates the local immune system and decreases the risk of recurrence. ” Gold,
the BCG experienced shortages