Bladder cancer: New drug approved by regulator which could transform patient’s lives

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The drug in question, nivolumab, is designed for patients who are too frail to undergo chemotherapy or for whom the side effects are too severe.

Trials have shown the drug can prevent cancer from coming back after the tumour has been removed with some patients experiencing no signs of cancer for at least three years.

The drug works by helping the body’s immune system to seek out and destroy cancer cells.

Around 10,000 people are diagnosed with bladder cancer in the UK with around 5,500 deaths reported annually.

News of the drugs’ approval has been welcomed, including by oncologist Professor Tobias Arkenau: “Many of my bladder cancer patients can’t tolerate chemotherapy. After we’ve removed what we can with surgery, they just have to keep their fingers crossed and hope it doesn’t return.

“But this drug works phenomenally well and the side effects are less gruesome.”

Bladder cancer, just like other forms of cancer, is most effectively treated when diagnosed early.

One of the earliest symptoms and most common symptom of the condition is blood in the urine.

Other symptoms of bladder cancer include:
• A need to urinate
• Sudden urges to urinate
• A burning sensation when passing urine
• Pelvic pain
• Bone pain
• Unintentional weight loss
• Swelling of the legs.

The NHS suggests seeking medical advice if blood in the urine is spotted.

While blood in the urine can be an unnerving sign, it is important to stress its occurrence does not automatically mean someone has bladder cancer.

What else could it be?

Other potential causes of blood in urine are:
• A urinary tract infection (UTI)
• Kidney infection
• Kidney stones
• Non-gonococcal urethritis
• Enlarged prostate gland.

As with all other conditions, the sooner it is diagnosed the more successful treatment is likely to be.

In few more crucial situations is this the case than it is with cancer.

The advice from health professionals and patients alike is to get checked even if it turns out to be nothing.

It is far better to know than to ignore and regret the lack of action at a stage when the condition is harder to treat.

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