How many people who have blood in their urine (pee), have cancer?
There have been two recent research studies done, looking at thousands of people to work out how many people with a certain symptom are likely to have cancer. If you have blood in your urine, then you should make an appointment and mention this to your GP. The chances are it’s not cancer but you need to let your GP know. It may be embarrassing to talk about it to your doctor but it won’t take long and it will put your mind at rest.
So just how many people who have blood in their urine have cancer? Not many!
|Cause of blood in urine not known*||Blood in urine caused by a disease other than cancer||Blood in urine caused by cancer|
|Percentage of Cases||65 %||29.3 %||5.7 %|
|Actual Number of People studied
(11,108 in total)
* At 3 years from first reporting the symptom (diagnoses of cancer were most often made in the first three months after visiting the GP)
This same information can be shown using a pie chart
Jones et al BMJ “Alarm symptoms in early diagnosis of cancer in primary care cohort study using general practice research database” (May 2007)
Jones et al BMJ “Alarm symptoms and identification of non-cancer diagnoses in primary care: cohort study” (August 2009)
So what does this all mean?
Well, the researchers that carried out this study used something called the “UK General Practice Research Database”. They got their information from 128 GP practices in England (we don’t know which practices they looked at for reasons of confidentiality) and looked at the records from December 2000 to January 1994. They looked at how many people, in those 128 GP surgeries had visited their doctor because they had blood in their urine, they then followed the records for three years to find out what happened to them.
In total they found that 11,108 people went to their doctor because they had blood in their urine, most of these people (about 65%) never found out the reason why this happened to them. For about a third of people (about 30%), this symptom was caused by a disease other than cancer. Only a very small number of people with blood in their urine were diagnosed with cancer, less than 6 %. Almost all the people diagnosed with cancer, were diagnosed quickly, within the first 3 months of their visit to the doctor.
Apart from cancer, what else causes blood in your urine?
Lots of things, which is why it is important to see your GP. Most people with blood in their urine were found to have a urinary tract infection, this is usually treated with antibiotics. Of course it depends if you are a man or a woman! If you are a woman it could be linked to your periods (a menstrual disorder) or if you are a man you could have an enlarged prostate. It could also be a sign of a problem with your kidneys, which is another reason to get it checked out. There are lots of other reasons for this symptom, far too many to mention here. It is a common problem, from the numbers above you can see that about 80 people visited each GP practice after noticing blood in their urine, so it is not uncommon.
I can’t tell my doctor about this, it’s too embarrassing!
It is embarrassing, but your GP will be used to dealing with this sort of thing. Actually getting in the door and telling your doctor is the worst part. Doctors spend years at medical school learning a whole different language, don’t worry if you don’t know all the correct technical terms, your doctor will be able to figure it out. There are websites that help you say difficult words http://www.howjsay.com is a good one.
- Urine is the posh (medical) word for pee, piss, widdle, waz or a number one.
- Stool is the posh (medical) word for poop, pooh, turd, shit or a number two.
- Passing urine means having a pee/piss/widdle.
- A bowel movement means having a poo/shit/turd.
Even knowing all this, it is still not easy to bring this up with your doctor, below is an example of a conversation you could have with your GP. Practice it at home first and don’t chicken out, say it as soon as you go in, don’t leave it until the end of the appointment!
A sample conversation
GP: Hello, how are you?
You: Fine thanks. (Everyone says this, you wouldn’t be at the doctors if you are fine!)
GP: What can I do for you today?
You: Well, actually, this is quite embarrassing…
GP: Go, on
You: I’ve noticed some blood in my urine (pee)
If you are worried it might be cancer then you are far better to ask this question outright than go away worrying about it.
You: My father/brother/mother/sister/friend had ______________ (type of cancer), I am worried that this might be cancer.
There, that’s the worst bit over and done with. Your doctor will probably ask you a few questions, so if it helps have a think about them before you go in.
Questions your doctor might ask
- When did it start (last week, last month?)
- Is it painful?
- Have you noticed a funny smell or discharge?
- Are you feeling well otherwise?
Questions you can ask your doctor
- Do I need any tests?
- When should I come back?
- How do I get my test results? Do I phone? If so, when should I phone?
- How long will the results take?
- Do I need to see a specialist?
Your doctor may ask you to provide a urine sample (pee in a little pot), again you’d probably rather not do this, but it’s not that difficult, you’ll be shown to a toilet and you’ll be able to lock the door, the doctor won’t watch you! If this is a real problem ask if you could take the pot home and bring the sample back to the surgery.
What if I don’t think my GP is taking this seriously?
Go back, doctors aren’t mind readers, if it is still a problem, make another appointment. It helps if you can see the same GP again. If you still feel like you are getting nowhere, make an appointment with a different GP and get a second opinion, remember doctors are human too, you might just have caught them on a bad day.
The Cancer Research UK website has more information on the NICE guidelines and what you should expect called “Should I see a bladder cancer specialist?” If you still aren’t getting anywhere you could contact the Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) or ask at your GP reception for a comment form.
A downloadable copy of this post is available with space to complete the questions and add your own notes. “I have blood in my urine – Does that mean I have cancer?” It is a pdf, you will need Adobe Acrobat reader to open it.