Gender Influences Bladder Cancer Survival

Women are more likely to die from bladder cancer earlier on after diagnosis, according to recent study findings published in the European Journal of Cancer. However, after that time frame the risk of death is higher for men.

Researchers from Norway examined the information of 15,129 patients with newly diagnosed invasive or non-invasive bladder cancer using the Cancer Registry of Norway. The study period was from 1997 to 2011.

“Mortality among patients with bladder cancer is usually reported to be higher for women than men, but how the risk differs and why remain largely unexplained,” researchers wrote.

In the study, the researchers determined that women have a significantly higher risk of death from the disease in the first two years after diagnosis compared with men. But in the long run women have a slightly better prognosis, researchers concluded.

Within the first two years, men had a 21 percent significantly lower risk of death than women. In the two to 10-year timeframe, men had a 16 percent higher risk of death.

The reason behind this difference in survival between genders may be related to the stage at which a patient is diagnosed. “Gender differences in treatment of bladder cancer, particularly for more severe bladder cancer diagnoses, could theoretically influence prognosis,” researchers wrote. However, it is still unclear why the disease is found in advanced stages in women.

Other factors may include smoking habits, which was not looked at in this study. “Smoking is a key risk factor not only for the development of bladder cancer but also for its impact on prognosis,” researchers wrote. In addition, the researchers explained that the remaining survival gap between men and women patients with bladder cancer may also include occupation, medication, hormone levels and genetic and biologic differences.

In the United States this year, it’s estimated that 81,190 cases of bladder cancer will be newly diagnosed, more than 62,000 of them in men, according to the American Cancer Society. The disease more commonly occurs in people who are older — the average age at diagnosis is 73. Caucasians tend to develop the disease more often than African Americans and Hispanic Americans.

Blood in the urine is often the first sign of bladder cancer. In addition, changes in bladder habits can also be a symptom. These can include: frequent urination, pain or burning during urination and feeling as if you need to go right away. People may experience being unable to urinate, lower back pain on one side, weight loss and swelling in the feet if the disease has advanced.

“The common view of worse bladder cancer prognosis in women than in men needs to be revised,” researchers wrote. “Norwegian women have a less favorable prognosis solely within the first two years after diagnosis, particularly when diagnosed with a muscle-invasive tumor; parts of this discrepancy can be attributed to more severe initial diagnoses in women.”