Health Watch -- Misleading Symptoms

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Two different kinds of cancer can have the same symptoms, making for a difficult diagnosis.

Due to public education campaigns, men are generally aware of the major symptoms of prostate cancer, including blood in the urine and a burning feeling while urinating. But doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say these are also symptoms of bladder cancer.

Bladder cancer doesn't get as much publicity as prostate cancer, but it's now the fourth leading form of cancer in men. Unfortunately, it's difficult to diagnose because there's no generally accepted screening test. Doctors just have to test for this cancer when patients report symptoms, and because the symptoms are so similar to those of prostate cancer, patients may only be tested for prostate problems.

Dr. Kenneth Koeneman, a UT Southwestern urologist, says men who experience symptoms like blood in the urine or a burning feeling while urinating should see a doctor and request tests for bladder cancer in addition to the usual prostate tests. Bladder cancer may be detected with a urine test or with cystoscopy, which is an examination of the bladder using a flexible scope.

It's very important to detect bladder cancer in its earliest stages because it tends to involve very aggressive tumors. Up to half of patients with more advanced bladder cancer have recurring tumors, while most people recover fully if the cancer is removed in the early stages while it's still a small, polyp-like tumor.