Look Before You Flush – Your Health Could Be At Risk

Close-up of legs and panties of young Caucasian woman sitting on toilet bowl.

 Only 16% of those most at risk of bladder and kidney cancer check for vital signs of blood in pee


  • Blood in pee is a key symptom of bladder and kidney cancer, yet only 16% of those most at risk – aged 50 or over – check the colour of their pee every time they go to the toilet
  • ‘Be Clear on Cancer’ campaign launches to encourage people to ‘look before they flush’ and tell their doctor if they notice blood in their pee, even if it’s just once
  • Every year around 19,100 new cases of bladder and kidney cancer are diagnosed in England; causing around 8,000 deaths
  • A new film featuring Dr Dawn Harper highlights what blood in pee might look like
  • Posters in public toilets in locations across England will remind people to check their pee 

Public Health England (PHE) is launching a national ‘Be Clear on Cancer’ campaign which highlights blood in pee as a key symptom of bladder and kidney cancers. The campaign will encourage everyone to ‘look before they flush’ and visit their GP without delay if they notice blood in their pee, even if it’s just once.

A new survey reveals that only 16% of adults aged 50 and over in England (those most at risk of these cancers) say they check the colour of their pee every time they go to the toilet, with women being less likely to check every time (12% vs. 20% of men).

A new short film featuring TV doctor, Dr Dawn Harper, is being released as part of the campaign. The film shows what to look out for as the colour of blood in your pee can vary – from very diluted, to bright red or even dark brown, like the colour of weak black tea. Blood in pee is a symptom in almost two thirds (64%) of all bladder cancers and around a fifth (18%) of kidney cancers.

Blood might not appear every time, so it is important that people seek medical help even if they notice it just once. Worryingly, around half (47%) of those surveyed said they would not seek medical advice if they saw blood in their pee just once, with 45% saying they would wait and see if it happened again, potentially putting off a vital diagnosis.

When asked why they would not go to the GP straight away, one in five (20%) say they would be worried about wasting the GP’s time and nearly a quarter (23%) would only book an appointment sooner if they had other symptoms.

Latest figures show that every year in England around 19,100 people are diagnosed with bladder or kidney cancer and around 8,000 people die from these diseases. Early diagnosis is critical; 84% of those diagnosed with kidney cancer and 77% of those diagnosed with bladder cancer at the earliest stage (stage 1) will live for at least five years. At a late stage (stage 4), this drops to 10% and 9% respectively.

Professor Julia Verne, from  Public Health England said: It is vital that people know that blood in pee could be a sign of cancer. 

“Our research shows only a small number of people  check  the colour of their pee every time they go to the toilet. People need  to get into the habit of looking before they flush to spot any signs of blood in their pee. And if there is blood, they shouldn’t hesitate about going to their GP. This will help  diagnose more people at the early stages, when cancer is more treatable – improving their chances of living longer.”

Dr Dawn Harper, TV Doctor and GP, said:I’m urging people to be vigilant to changes in their body and to check their pee. I hear all too often about people who have delayed seeking medical advice if they have worrying symptoms – like blood in pee – because they are afraid of what the doctor might find or what the treatment might be. 

“If you do notice blood in your pee, it’s probably nothing serious, but it’s always worth checking with a health professional – you won’t be wasting their time. It’s vital that people don’t put off getting help; if it is cancer, early diagnosis saves lives.” 

BBC News and Classic FM Presenter, and kidney cancer survivor, Nicholas Owen, commented:

When I was diagnosed with kidney cancer, it really came out of the blue. I was incredibly lucky in that it was caught early, because it could easily have been a very different story. I am living proof that you can survive cancer and go back to fulfil a normal life, but to do this it’s so important that we do what we can to get cancer caught in the early stages. So symptoms like blood in pee, look out for it, don’t ignore it and please seek medical help if you spot it.” 

Professor Chris Harrison, NHS England’s national clinical director for cancer, said: “The earlier people are diagnosed, the better their chances, which is why it is vital people understand what to look out for and when to visit the GP. This campaign has the important aim of helping raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of bladder and kidney cancer and encouraging people to visit their GP after seeing blood in their pee.” 

For further information about the signs and symptoms of bladder and kidney cancer . . .



Moira Chisholm

I'm the Health Editor on My Weekly and am always interested to hear what's new in this fascinating field. I also deal with the gardening, shopping pages, general features, our website content and the Ask Helen problem page. I have a special interest in Christmas content because I'm on the team for Your Best Ever Christmas Magazine, too!