A patient who refused to ignore her instincts, even as her doctor tried to convince her she was healthy. She's sharing her experience, speaking out to help save others. This cancer survivor's message ... always trust your gut.
Nurse: "Take a deep breath."
Carrie King, Bladder Cancer Patient: "It was nothing more than me listening to that voice inside my head saying, 'Something's not right here.'"
Something wasn't right. Carrie's first symptom -- urinary frequency. That was five years ago. Then, blood in her urine. Her primary care physician's reaction?
Carrie King: "He was completely not worried about it."
It's a story Dr. Steinberg hears all too often.
Dr. Gary Steinberg, Urologist, University of Chicago Medical Center: "There's no question in my mind that there is a significant delay in diagnosis. Many times I'll see patients in the office who are newly diagnosed with bladder cancer, but the first episode of blood in the urine was 12, 13, 14 months prior to that."
Carrie King: "Last year when I went in for my annual physical, with the fifth year and I'm hearing the same thing. A couple weeks after my appointment I e-mailed my doctor and said, 'Since I've had these two symptoms over time, don't you think we should check it out just to be on the safe side?'"
A visit to the urologist confirmed Carrie's fears -- she had bladder cancer. But there was hope -- they had caught it just in time.
Carrie King: "If we had waited another year, it would have been too far gone for them to help me. The really scary thing was the primary care physician said, 'We'll check again in a year.' Every time I think of that, it just scares me to pieces."
Dr. Steinberg: "Absolutely, positively no question in my mind we need to do a better job educating the public. We need to do a better job educating primary care physicians as well as internists to the importance of blood in the urine."
It's a simple question and an even simpler test. Is there bacteria present indicating an infection, or is it something else?
Dr. Steinberg: "It's critically important that patient's and their physicians realize that, if there is blood in the urine, you must rule out bladder cancer."
Carrie's persistence paid off, but not without pain. When infusions of medication didn't kill all the cancerous cells, she opted for surgery. Dr. Steinberg removed Carrie's natural bladder and replaced it with a neo-bladder made from a portion of her small intestine.
Carrie King: "I feel great. In fact, I'm at the point three months out after surgery where I'm starting to forget that this huge medical ordeal ever happened."
But she doesn't want others to forget the lesson she's learned.
Carrie King: "It was such an epic wake up call that I feel obligated to let people know if you have symptoms, in my case classic symptoms, don't ignore those. No one is going to be a bigger advocate for your health than you are."
Bladder cancer is more common among men than women. There are 70,000 new cases diagnosed annually, with up to 15,000 people dying from the disease in the U.S. each year.
You can learn more about bladder cancer at www.bcan.org