Bob Schieffer's Battle Against Bladder Cancer

Bladder cancer is the fifth most diagnosed cancer in this country, killing more than 14,000 Americans each year. This disease has touched a lot of families including the CBS family. Tonight, Bob Schieffer shares his personal story of survival with Dr. Jon LaPook.

Veteran CBS News anchor and correspondent Bob Schieffer has spent his life getting the facts out. This time, it's personal.

"People don't like to talk about diseases that happen to you below the belt," Schieffer said. "It's embarrassing to talk about."

Seven years ago, Schieffer was diagnosed with bladder cancer.

"One day I went to the gym and after working out, I looked and discovered blood in my urine. I didn't know what this meant but I didn't think too much about it. I thought, 'well I probably strained myself,'" Schieffer said.

Schieffer blames smoking.

"I was one of the heaviest smokers. I started chewing tobacco when I was 16 years old because I hung around rodeos and played baseball."

The cancer can develop when carcinogens in the body pass through the kidney and wind up in urine. Over time, those toxins can cause tumors to form. Fifty percent of bladder cancers are linked to smoking.

Ninety-five percent of the time, the first symptom is blood in the urine. In women, that may be mistaken as a sign of menopause or infection.

"Many people simply don't know that it may be related to a tumor that's growing in their bladder," said Dr. Bernard Bochner, Urologic Surgeon, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. "So, understanding that this is a critical symptom that requires immediate evaluation may be a lifesaver."

Cancer can be found, and often removed with a thin tube into the bladder. The bladder can usually be saved - as it was for Schieffer. But in advanced cases, that's not possible.

That's what happened to the wife of Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards. Patti Hansen found out she had bladder cancer three years ago at age 51. Surgeons had to remove her bladder, but were able to make a new one - using a piece of her intestine.

Web Extra: Surviving Bladder Cancer

"One of the greatest advances in reconstructive surgery for bladder cancer is the ability to build a new bladder," Dr. Bochner said. "People can work, they can travel, they can exercise. They can live full complete lives after this type of surgery."

At 73 years old, Schieffer is healthy and speaking out on behalf of the Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network. A witness to history, Schieffer would like to make ignorance about this cancer a thing of the past.

"It's about what we can do to defeat this disease. That's what it's about." Schieffer said.

More About Bladder Cancer
Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network
American Bladder Cancer Society
National Cancer Institute: Bladder Cancer
  • Jonathan M.D.

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