If you've been reading these alerts for long, you probably know that I'm not much of a fan of most any screen for cancer. If you're new to these alerts, that might surprise you. Why don't I endorse cancer screens? Because almost all of them detect cancer after it has developed. By then it is usually far too late. I am not one who subscribes to the theory that early detection will save you. By the time our methods can detect cancer, it has been present for years and most likely has spread. Your chances then will depend on your own immune system to mount a defense, not on conventional slash, poison, and burn techniques.
However, if you can detect a lesion before it turns cancerous and invades, medical intervention makes excellent sense. An example is a colon or bladder polyp. Colon polyps require a colonoscopy to find these polyps. But checking for bladder polyps couldn't be easier.
A recent study presented at the American Urological Association in Atlanta documented that you can significantly reduce your risk of invasive bladder cancer just by checking your urine for blood. Researchers followed 1,575 men for 14 years. They agreed to do home testing for two 14-day cycles, nine months apart. If positive, the men were sent for routine medical work-ups for hematuria (blood in urine). This evaluation would include a cystoscopy. That's where they place a small scope up through the urethra into your bladder. With this test, the doctor can have a bird's eye look at where the blood might be coming from.
About 16% of the men tested positive. Of those, 8.1% actually had cancer. What's important is that none of the men died of bladder cancer during the study. In contrast, a control group of similar numbers had 509 cases of bladder cancer and 104 bladder cancer deaths. The researchers found that the number of high-grade lesions were similar in both groups. The difference was the greater likelihood of discovering the cancer before it had invaded in the screened group.
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Bladder cancer, while not especially common, is not rare. If it has invaded, doctors will often seek to remove your bladder and make a pouch out of part of your colon. The results from this replumbing as well as the small chance of surviving cancer-free are pretty dismal in my experience. It's far better to prevent!
The good news is that you don't have to see a doctor for the screen. Hemastix® are a readily available (at your drugstore or online) way for you to screen your own urine for blood. It's really easy. If the indicator turns blue, that suggests blood. I would definitely recommend a visit to an urologist for more definitive testing if your test is positive. Women should avoid testing around their periods, as that could lead to a false positive.