An Important Message To Others
- Eric Braeden, best known for his role as Victor Newman on “The Young and the Restless,” and veteran news talk show journalist Bob Schieffer are using their experiences with bladder cancer to be proactive in the fight against disease and urge others to pay attentions to symptoms.
- Both Braeden and Schieffer, known for hosting CBS News’ “Face the Nation,” have both been dubbed cancer free and are sharing their stories in an effort to help others discover cancer at an early stage.
- Bladder cancer develops when cells that make up the urinary bladder start to grow and eventually develop into tumors. Smoking is a leading risk factor for this disease with smokers being three times more likely to be diagnosed with bladder cancer than non-smokers.
- Bladder cancer occurs mainly in older people. About 9 out of 10 people with this cancer are over the age of 55. The average age of people when they are diagnosed is 73. Fortunately, many diagnoses are caught at an early stage, when the cancer is highly treatable. However, it is common for new occurrences or recurrences to occur even after successful treatments. Patients typically need follow-up tests done years after treatment.
- Symptoms of bladder cancer may include: Blood in urine, frequent urination, painful urination, flank pain, urgency.
Braeden, an 82-year-old German-born actor, and Schieffer, a Texas-born 86-year-old known for hosting CBS News’ “Face the Nation,” have both been dubbed cancer free. Although Braeden’s battle with the disease was more recent, both men know all to well about what it’s like to talk about such a private matter as public figures. We admire their efforts to spread awareness and inspire others to get checked when something seems off with their body.Read More
Braeden, also known for his role as Hans Dietrich in the 1960s TV series “The Rat Patrol,” recounted how his brother, who is eight years older than him, had his bladder removed 10 years ago due to him receiving a later-stage diagnosis.
As for himself, Braeden’s cancer was discovered early on.
He urges others to “have a cystoscopy, have a colonoscopy at least once a year, get a calcium score of your heart, women should have an annual mammogram. Just do it!
“As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Cancer is a vicious thing. You don’t feel it come on. Really, I felt nothing in that regard. I felt problems having to do with the prostate, but it turned out not to be prostate cancer.”
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In regard to whether he’s ever felt fear during his cancer journey, Braeden admitted, he hasn’t.
“I hate to say it, but no, I have not. I’’e not been scared because I knew, and this also is what prompted me to make this public, because of my brother’s experience and two or three other people that I knew who had different kinds of experience [with cancer], I knew what was awaiting me.
“So I was not scared in that sense. No. I said, ‘Let’s go, let’s get on with it, let’s deal with it,’ and I’ve had that feeling ever since.”
Meanwhile, his fellow bladder cancer survivor Schieffer’s was more reluctant to share his cancer diagnosis publicly, a decision many cancer warriors face on their journeys to recovery.
“I was very reluctant to speak out about it,” Schieffer, who was diagnosed with grade 3 bladder cancer in 2003, previously told Coping Magazine. “Men especially are reluctant to talk about what I call ‘below-the-belt’ diseases.”
Schieffer credits his late friend and former White House Chief of Staff Hamilton Jordon for encouraging him to raise awareness about the disease. “‘You have a platform, and you have no idea how much influence you will have on people and how much you can help them,'” Schieffer recalled Jordon telling him.
After Schieffer publicly shared his cancer journey, he said he saw the impact it was having on people also living with a health condition.
“Because of my talking about it, they went to the doctor and were diagnosed, and their cancer was treated,” Schieffer said. “It really brought home to me how important it is when we have these diseases to not be afraid to talk about them.”
Eric Braeden’s Cancer Journey
Braeden, who did not specifically say what type of cancer he had been diagnosed with, explained in an Instagram post earlier this year that his official diagnosis began after having his left knee recently replaced.
“Whilst recuperating from the knee surgery, I began to have problems with my prostate,” he said in an video shared on his Facebook page. “I hate to be this personal, but I think this may be good for some older guys who may or may not listen to this.”
He went on to say he had been struggling with frequent urination because of an enlarged prostate. “It got to the point where I had to get up almost every half hour and that was when I was recuperating from my knee surgery not a good thing.”
Braeden went to a doctor to address the issue, but little came of the appointment. He kept calling to follow up about a possible treatment, but no one answered. Eventually, his urination issue got so bad that he wasn’t able to pee at all. He added, “And that, my friends, I can tell you is one of the most painful experiences I’ve had.”
Out of desperation, he went back to the doctor to demand a solution for his painful situation. That’s when he received the temporary fix of a catheter. After a few days, the catheter was removed and the doctor said his bladder looked “all clear” during the follow-up appointment.
“This was six weeks or two months before something more serious happened,” he said. Eventually, his symptoms returned. So, he needed to find a more long-term solution.
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He went to a different doctor who happened to be one of the pioneers of the UroLift a fairly new procedure used to treat an enlarged prostate. The procedure was first approved by the FDA about nine years ago.
Before he could undergo the procedure, however, Braeden’s new doctor took another look at his bladder, which led to the discovery of cancer.
“‘When I do the UroLift, we’ll take out the cancer,'” Braeden recalled his doctor saying. “Needless to say, I was taken aback, but I was determined to deal with it.”
Braeden then started immunotherapy treatments because some “high-grade cancer cells” were found after the procedure. He announced he was “cancer free” in August.
Learning About Bladder Cancer
SurvivorNet experts explain that the bladder is a hollow, muscular, balloon-shaped organ that expands as it fills with urine. The bladder is an essential part of your urinary system, which also includes two kidneys, two ureters and the urethra.
Bladder cancer develops when cells that make up the urinary bladder start to grow and eventually develop into tumors. Smoking is a leading risk factor for this disease with smokers being three times more likely to be diagnosed with bladder cancer than non-smokers.
Dr. Arjun Balar, a medical oncologist at NYU Perlmutter Cancer Center, explains the risk factors for bladder cancer.
Bladder cancer occurs mainly in older people. About 9 out of 10 people with this cancer are over the age of 55. The average age of people when they are diagnosed is 73. Fortunately, many diagnoses are caught at an early stage, when the cancer is highly treatable. However, it is common for new occurrences or recurrences to occur even after successful treatments. Patients typically need follow-up tests done years after treatment.
Symptoms of bladder cancer may include:
- Blood in urine
- Frequent urination
- Painful urination
- Flank pain
Dr. Jay Shah, a staff surgeon, urologic oncologist and associate professor of urology at Stanford University, discusses the symptoms of bladder cancer.
Additionally, there are risk factors that make you more likely to develop bladder cancer. These include:
- Tobacco exposure: Smoking is the greatest risk factor for bladder cancer.
- Sex: Males are diagnosed with bladder cancer more often than females.
- Chemical exposure: Some chemicals used in dyes, rubber, leather, printing material, textiles, and paint products have been linked to risk of bladder cancer.
- Age: The risk of bladder cancer increases as you age.
- Genetic risk factors: Certain genetic alterations can predispose you to a higher bladder cancer risk. Lynch syndrome, for example, is a set of genetic alterations that can be passed among generations in a family and is associated with higher bladder cancer risk. If you have a first degree relative with bladder cancer you may have a higher bladder cancer risk yourself.
WATCH: What Are The Surgical Options To Treat Bladder Cancer?
Should High Risk Individuals Be Screened For Bladder Cancer?
It’s great to be proactive when it comes to your health, but when it comes to bladder cancer, the preventative guidelines differ from other disease.
SurvivorNet experts explain that while the screening guidelines for cancers of the prostate, breast, colon and skin all recommend tests for asymptomatic people, based primarily on age-related risk, the guidelines for bladder cancer screenings make no recommendation to test people who have no symptoms.
High-risk individuals should be screened, according to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), only if they present with symptoms, such as blood in the urine (hematuria). Dr. Jay Shah, a staff surgeon and associate professor of urology at Stanford University, as well as the leader of Stanford’s Cancer Care Program for Urologic Oncology, explains that researchers have studied whether bladder cancer screening for everyone makes sense. The research consistently suggests that universal screening is not appropriate because it is unlikely to lower the risk of dying in individuals who are at average risk.
“Unless there is some specific cause for you to be worked up for bladder cancer, you don’t need to get screened for it,” Dr. Shah says. “The number of people who would be found to have cancer that way, without any blood in the urine or any other symptoms is very, very small. That said, if you see blood in your urine, you should always be screened for bladder cancer if you’re over the age of 40.”
Some doctors may suggest bladder cancer screening for asymptomatic adults who would be considered high risk by the following criteria:
- Had bladder cancer previously
- Have birth defects that affect the bladder
- Experienced long-term exposure to certain chemicals in the workplace
Other common risk factors for bladder cancer, according to the USPSTF, include:
- Smoking, the number one risk factor for bladder cancer
- Male sex (men are four times as likely as women to be diagnosed with
- Older age
- White race
- Parasites that infect the bladder
The presence of other bladder cancer risk factors may also put a person in the high-risk category. However, the screening decision is one that a patient and physician should discuss if there are no obvious symptoms.
A routine urinalysis that reveals hematuria won’t always trigger further testing. Blood in the urine usually has a benign cause, such as a bacterial infection or a kidney stone. If a bladder infection is suspected, but treatment with antibiotics doesn’t clear it up, further testing is appropriate, says Arjun Balar, MD, director of the genitourinary oncology program at NYU Langone’s Perlmutter Cancer Center.
The next screening is usually a cystoscopy. During a cystoscopy, a urologist inserts a cystoscopea long, flexible tube with a tiny light and camera at one end, into the urethra and up into the bladder. In addition to signs of inflammation or other problems, the doctor will look for cancerous nodules.
“If such an abnormal appearance in the bladder is noted, then ultimately the urologist will take the patient to the operating room to perform what is called a TURBT (transurethral resection of the bladder tumor),” Dr. Balar says, noting that this procedure is done under general anesthesia with a more rigid cystoscope.
The instrument scrapes the inner lining of the bladder to assess how invasive the cancer might be. “What we want to know there really is the stage,” Dr. Balar says. “Within bladder cancer, we have tumors that can grow into the lining and outward into the lumen of the bladder. We call those papillary tumors or in situ cancers, which means they don’t invade into the bladder wall, but they are simply present.”
Contributing: SurvivorNet Staff