Everyone living with bladder cancer will face a different reality. However, there are some common misconceptions which can make it harder for patients and loved ones to open up about their journey. It is important to dispel these myths in order to raise awareness for those living with bladder cancer and help others understand.
Myth 1: Only men get bladder cancer
Many women who have been diagnosed with bladder cancer expressed that they didn’t even know women could get bladder cancer. While it is more common in men, women are still at risk. Due to the misconception that women don’t get bladder cancer, some might even ignore the symptoms, delaying diagnosis and possibly allowing the cancer to progress. Sharing the fact that women too can develop bladder cancer can help them watch for the signs and receive a diagnosis and treatment earlier.
Myth 2: Bladder cancer is the easiest cancer to battle
One contributor at BladderCancer.net, Anita, shared her diagnosis experience during which a nurse told her that she “should be happy, as Bladder Cancer is one of the easiest cancers to treat.“ Downplaying bladder cancer can hard for patients who experience pain, undergo multiple surgeries, and deal with constant fear and anxiety around their cancers. The physical and mental strain is exhausting, and when bladder cancer patients hear from others that they are “lucky” to have gotten bladder cancer instead of another cancer, it can be hurtful. Even when treatment is successful, bladder cancer is very likely to come back. Fear of recurrence and the need for regular follow-up appointments makes the road a long one for those with bladder cancer.
Myth 3: All bladder cancers are caused by smoking
Cigarettes and tobacco use can increase the risk of developing bladder cancer, but many people who are diagnosed have never smoked. Blaming bladder cancer on tobacco use implies that those who are diagnosed “did this to themselves.” This stigma can be incredibly harmful for those already bearing the heavy burden of bladder cancer. No one deserves to get cancer, and asking whether or not someone smoked before their diagnosis can add to the stigma and stereotypes.
Myth 4: Bladder removal surgery is the only successful treatment
There are many treatment options available for bladder cancer, with several new immunotherapy approvals in recent years thanks to increased research efforts. Taking the time to investigate the different options (like TURBT, BCG, chemotherapy, radiation, and immunotherapy) and discuss them with your doctor is the best way to determine which treatment will be best for you. If a bladder removal surgery sounds unthinkable to you, make sure you speak with your healthcare team about your preferences and goals for treatment.
Myth 5: Having a “bag for life” ruins quality of life
With that being said, there is a misconception that having a bladder removal surgery (a cystectomy) followed by reconstructive surgery resulting in an ostomy will dramatically reduce quality of life. Having an external bag is not the only option for a urinary diversion. There are other types of reconstructive surgery: the Indiana Pouch and the neobladder. However, with any diversion option, an amazing life can be had. Many bladder cancer patients have undergone cystectomies, and all continue to live inspiring and enjoyable lives spending time with family, continuing to work, and even traveling the world. Finding and connecting with others who have been through it is a great way to set expectations and adapt more quickly to the changes.
Myth 6: It’s always obvious when someone has bladder cancer
The number one symptom of bladder cancer is blood in the urine. Treatment side effects can include pain, fatigue, cramping and spasms in the bladder, and other issues that are rarely visible from the outside. The often invisible nature of bladder cancer can lead to strangers or even friends and family assuming that a person is doing well when they are actually quite ill in the middle of treatment. Looking good on the outside doesn’t mean feeling good on the inside, and the best way to gauge how someone is doing is to ask!
Information taken from Bladdercancer.net.