Monday Medical: Bladder cancer linked to tobacco use |

Monday Medical: Bladder cancer linked to tobacco use

Christine McKelvie/For the Steamboat Today

If anyone needs another reason to quit smoking or using tobacco — or better yet, never start — Steamboat Springs urologist Dr. Stacy Childs has a strong message:

"Tobacco use is a major risk factor for developing bladder cancer, which is one of the top five cancers in Routt County," Childs said.

"As health conscious as our community is, I am amazed that people still use tobacco here. They either smoke, chew or dip," he said.

Childs, who is medical director of Cancer Services at Yampa Valley Medical Center, encourages Northwest Colorado residents to learn more about this health threat by attending the program "What You Need to Know About Bladder Cancer."

The free lunchtime presentation Wednesday features urologist Dr. Shandra Wilson, an associate professor at the University of Colorado Denver. The first woman to join the urologic faculty at the university, Wilson is subspecialty trained in oncology and robotic surgery.

In addition to treating patients, Wilson frequently gives talks on the topic of cancer prevention. She also is involved in clinical and basic science research to improve outcomes in patients diagnosed with genitourinary malignancy, especially bladder cancer.

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Her presentation at YVMC will cover the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of bladder cancer.

Bladder cancer forms in tissues of the bladder, the organ that stores urine. It occurs mainly in people older than 55, but Childs has seen patients in their 20s with bladder cancer. Men have a much higher risk than women of developing bladder cancer during their lifetimes, though Childs said the incidence is rising among women.

Seven out of 10 people who are diagnosed with bladder cancer go to their family doctors because they see blood in their urine, Childs said. In 20 percent of cases, bladder cancer is discovered when people have diagnostic CT scans for unrelated health issues.

Childs and his partner, Dr. Jamie VanOveren, perform surgery and treat patients for bladder cancer at YVMC. They also refer some patients to Wilson for more complicated surgery, such as removal of the bladder and replacement with an artificial bladder.

"Bladder cancer is curable if caught early," Childs said. "Ninety percent of cases are curable if patients comply with the recommended follow-up tests in the years following surgery. This surveillance is necessary because bladder cancer tends to recur."

One cause of bladder cancer mentioned by Childs is exposure to organic chemicals. These compounds are present in oil fields, at dry cleaners and in automobile repair shops, for example.

However, tobacco remains "public enemy No. 1" on Childs's list of risk factors.

"Many people think, 'I will smoke now and quit in the future,' but the effects of smoking last in the body a very long time," he said. "The average time from stopping using tobacco until a bladder cancer shows up is seventeen years. Mutations can take decades to affect the urinary tract.

"Non-smokers may be at risk from secondhand smoke or thirdhand smoke, the residue on furniture and curtains, for example. Any tobacco use poses a risk. There is just as great a likelihood of bladder or kidney cancer developing from chewing or dipping as from smoking."

Childs is looking forward to Wilson's talk Wednesday and encourages interested persons to sign up by calling YVMC's Wellness Department at 970-871-2500 or emailing RSVPs are required.

Childs also hopes that those who smoke, dip or chew will follow this advice: "Take the effort to quit tobacco now and add years to your life."

Christine McKelvie is a writer/editor at Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at

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