“Private Benjamin’s” Eileen Brennan Dies of Bladder Cancer

Stage, screen and television actress Eileeen Brennan has died.  Her manager, Kim Vasilakis, confirmed the death, saying that the cause was bladder cancer.

Brennan is best known for her role as Capt. Doreen Lewis in Private Benjamin, for which she received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress. She reprised the role for the TV adaptation, winning both a Golden Globe and Emmy for her performance.

Brennan also performed on screen in The Last Picture Show and The Sting. She received Emmy nominations for her guest starring roles on Newhart, Thirtysomething, Taxi, and Will & Grace.

Bladder Cancer in Women

For the basics about bladder cancer, see our story about “Stand and Deliver” teacher, Jaime Escalante.

According to the National Cancer Institute: It is estimated that 72,570 men and women (54,610 men and 17,960 women) will be diagnosed with and 15,210 men and women will die of cancer of the urinary bladder in 2013.  The majority of those diagnosed are over 55 years old, with a median age of 73 years. Men are four times more likely to bladder cancer than women.

Although bladder cancer is more common in men, studies have shown that women are more likely to have more advanced tumors and have a worse prognosis than men at almost every stage of the disease.

It reported that the difference in outcomes may be due to a delay in diagnosis  in women. Initial symptoms are more likely to be interpreted in women as due to bladder infections or gynecologic issues, and women may be treated for bladder infections, or seen by a gynecologist before the proper testing to done to rule out bladder cancer. In addition, many women themselves ignore or misinterpret the most basic symptom of blood in the urine,  associating it with menstruation or menopause,  and delay reporting this symptom to their doctors.

Smoking is the greatest risk factor. Smokers get bladder cancer twice as often as non-smokers.

woman bladderBladder cancer may cause these common symptoms:

* Finding blood in your urine (which may make the urine look rusty or darker red)
* Feeling an urgent need to empty your bladder
* Having to empty your bladder more often than you used to
* Feeling the need to empty your bladder without results
* Needing to strain (bear down) when you empty your bladder
* Feeling pain when you empty your bladder

Bladder cancer symptoms may be identical to those of a bladder infection and the two problems may occur together. If symptoms do not disappear after treatment with antibiotics, insist upon further evaluation to determine whether bladder cancer is present.

Former 70’s model and wife of Keith Richards, Patti Hansen came forward as a bladder cancer survivor in a Vogue interview in 2010.

For more information about bladder cancer, click here to go to the Resounding Health Casebook on the topic.

Michele R. Berman, M.D. was Clinical Director of The Pediatric Center, a private practice on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. from 1988-2000, and was named Outstanding Washington Physician by Washingtonian Magazine in 1999. She was a medical internet pioneer having established one of the first medical practice websites in 1997. Dr. Berman also authored a monthly column for Washington Parent Magazine.

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