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Truckers among those at higher risk for bladder cancer

Clarissa Kell-Holland
staff writer

Ironically, for one OOIDA member, the dreaded routine DOT physical saved his life.

Bill Hainline of Lawrenceburg, KY, told Land Line he first noticed blood in his urine in February 2006 while out on a run. The symptom went away after a day or so of drinking a “bunch of water,” but it concerned him enough that he went to see his regular doctor the next time he was home.

Although he had some urine lab work done at that time, his doctor told him “there was nothing to worry about” and speculated that he may have passed a small kidney stone.

It wasn’t until his regular DOT physical a few months later, which included a routine urine test, that Bill found out there were still traces of blood. The doctor doing the DOT physical recommended Bill see a urologist who, through a battery of tests, confirmed that Bill had bladder cancer and needed surgery to remove a tumor.

The treatment was successful and Bill is back out on the road. He and his wife, Betty, drive team for an Ohio-based carrier.

Truckers be wary
After his cancer was diagnosed, Bill said he researched it and found that truck driving was considered to be one of the higher-risk professions for bladder cancer. Bill said that wasn’t too much of a surprise when he considered the fuel fumes and exhaust he has been exposed to during his career as a trucker.

Dr. Mark Schoenberg, professor of urology and oncology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, confirmed that prolonged chemical exposure is indeed a risk factor for bladder cancer. As director of urologic oncology at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, Schoenberg is involved in both basic and clinical research on the detection and management of patients with all forms of bladder cancer.

“It’s pretty well accepted that petroleum distillates of which gasoline is one and diesel fuel is obviously another – in chronic exposure models done in animals – there is an increase in the likelihood of the animal developing bladder cancer,” he said.

“So, people who are constantly around fuel and fuel exhaust are probably occupationally exposed to chemicals that may increase their risk of bladder cancer.”

The James Brady Buchanan Urological Institute at Johns Hopkins Hospital Web site listed high-risk jobs such as firefighters, truck drivers, petroleum and aluminum workers, hair dressers and painters as having higher environmental and occupational chemical exposure, which can lead to bladder cancer.

Schoenberg also said it is hard to exactly pinpoint one main factor that causes people to get bladder cancer, but he added that smoking is the greatest common risk factor for getting bladder cancer.

“Smokers get bladder cancer twice as often as those who don’t smoke,” he said.

In the 2004 OOIDA Member Survey, approximately 30 percent of those who responded said they were smokers.

In addition to smoking, other aspects of their work make truckers even more susceptible to this type of cancer.

“The problem is that if you don’t go to the bathroom for long periods of time, which makes your urine more concentrated and your urine contains carcinogens that you are exposed to in the workplace and you happen to be a smoker, you have a hard time pulling apart exactly what the cause is. But there are epidemiological studies that suggest that truck drivers have an increased risk of getting bladder cancer,” he said.

While the cause of bladder cancer is unknown, several other risk factors have been identified that increase a person’s chances of getting the disease, including a person’s age and gender – white males between the ages of 65 and 85 years old are more likely to have this form of cancer, according to the Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network’s Web site at BCAN.org.

Some of the major symptoms of bladder cancer include blood in the urine, frequent or painful urination, urge to urinate without being able to and lower back pain.

If you have any of these symptoms, you should schedule a trip to your family doctor the next time you are home for a routine exam and urine test.

Schoenberg said that bladder cancer oftentimes goes undiagnosed because one of its most common symptoms is blood in the urine, which is also a common symptom for many other health conditions.

clarissa_kell-holland@landlinemag.com

Symptoms

  • Blood in the urine
  • Pain
  • Burning
  • Frequency of urination
  • Incomplete emptying of the bladder
  • Passage of tissue fragments in urine is another symptom though not as frequent

The presence of one or all of these signs does not mean you have cancer, but means more that you should be seen by a physician as these are abnormal bodily functions. Sometimes those diagnosed with bladder cancer did not experience any bleeding or pain, thus emphasizing the importance of routine screening and physicals.


Source: James Brady Buchanan Urological Institute at Johns Hopkins Hospital

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