Bladder Cancer Awareness Month: Why Are Women Diagnosed Later than Men?

Public Health

Bladder Cancer Awareness Month: Why Are Women Diagnosed Later than Men?

“Because women have a higher rate of urinary tract infection, a condition that can present with blood in the urine, medical providers may be more likely to presume they have this benign and common condition rather than considering a diagnosis of bladder cancer.”

Men are three times more likely to be diagnosed with bladder cancer than women. While the odds of having bladder cancer are higher for men, women are also less likely to be diagnosed in the early stages of the disease.

This is because symptoms are often interpreted differently among women than for men. As an example, one of the most common symptoms of bladder cancer is blood in the urine. This is often attributed to a urinary tract infection — more common among women than men.

May is Bladder Cancer Awareness Month, an opportunity to encourage men and women alike to know the warning signs and symptoms of early onset disease so steps can be taken towards improved outcomes.

Other symptoms of bladder cancer include:

  • Burning, irritation, or pain while urinating
  • Urgent urination
  • Pelvic pain
  • Weight loss

Dr. Cheryl Lee, a urologic oncologist specializing in bladder cancer, told Single-Use Endoscopy in a Q&A that the key to preventing lethal bladder cancer among women is increasing awareness.

“Because women have a higher rate of urinary tract infection, a condition that can present with blood in the urine, medical providers may be more likely to presume they have this benign and common condition rather than considering a diagnosis of bladder cancer,” she said.

Similarly, Dr. Emily Feld of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center encourages women diagnosed with a urinary tract infection to seek further treatment if symptoms persist after an antibiotic treatment.

Men are more likely to undergo a cystoscopy quickly for diagnosis and subsequent treatment, according to the Bladder Cancer Advocacy  Network. As women often are diagnosed at advanced stages of disease, survival rates are lower.

Unfortunately, women also tend to respond to treatment differently than men do. Researchers are still trying to understand why that is.

While women may be less likely to have an early diagnosis, men are at a greater risk for bladder cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. The organization estimates approximately 62,420 men will be diagnosed in 2023, as compared to an estimated 19,870 women. Today, bladder cancer is the fourth most common cancer among men.

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