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Early Bladder Cancer Symptoms Triggered Alarm

August 13, 2019

Listen to your body – particularly when the message is loud and clear. That’s the lesson Judy Swezy shares when recounting her journey with stage 3 bladder cancer.

Judy, who lives in Independence, Missouri, was diagnosed in August 2014. But, according to her and her physicians at The University of Kansas Cancer Center in Lee’s Summit, Judy's body was likely trying to tell her something was wrong much earlier.

For 3 years prior to her diagnosis, she says her urine had an unusual odor and that she was experiencing frequent bladder infections. Although Judy was not in pain, she grew increasingly frustrated when physicians told her it was nothing more than bladder infections.

“I knew what I was experiencing wasn’t right,” says Judy, 75. “But I couldn’t get anyone to take me seriously.”

Dr. Holzbeierlein looked me straight in the eye, and the first thing he said to me is that he could cure me. From then on, my family and I have been big fans of the hospital and cancer center. - Judy Swezy

Bladder cancer survivor

Multidisciplinary care for bladder cancer

When pain finally set in, Judy went to the emergency room at a local hospital. Later, she was referred to urologic cancer surgeon Jeffrey Holzbeierlein, MD. Dr. Holzbeierlein discovered a tumor in Judy the size of a softball, and diagnosed her with stage 3 bladder cancer.

Taking a multidisciplinary team approach, Dr. Holzbeierlein worked in tandem with medical oncologist Lakshmi Chintala, MD, to oversee his patient's treatment.

“Dr. Holzbeierlein looked me straight in the eye, and the first thing he said to me is that he could cure me,” Judy says. “From then on, my family and I have been big fans of the health system and cancer center.”

Judy received 4 cycles of chemotherapy, and after 3, her tumor had been reduced from the size of a softball to the size of a large marble. She was then cleared for surgery with Dr. Holzbeierlein.

Bladder cancer treatment success

Months after surgery to remove the tumor, Dr. Holzbeierlein told Judy she was cancer-free. As part of her treatment, he had to remove a portion of Judy's bowel to create the stoma for her urostomy, which manages the discharge of urine.

Judy says she has a new appreciation for the health system and cancer center. In fact, when her son-in-law recently needed medical attention, she insisted that he go to The University of Kansas Health System.

Judy still has regular exams and says she's amazed by the quick attention she receives from the staff. Always mindful of the possibility of recurrence, she recently called Dr. Holzbeierlein’s nurse when something didn’t feel right. The staff got Judy in immediately to address the problem and allay her concerns.

“We love the health system and cancer center. It takes a special breed to care for people with cancer and they have a lot of quality people,” Judy says. “I think they give 150% all the time.”

As with all treatments, individual patient results vary. It is important to discuss your treatment options with your healthcare provider.

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