Should I Worry About Mom's Medical Problem
August 21, 2010 9:45 AM   Subscribe

My mother has had blood in her urine (without pain) for the past 5 days. She's doing all the right things (doctor, kidney function test, next doctor on Monday) but everyone seems to be minimizing the situation. Help me face whatever's coming.

She had a kidney function test (whatever that is) done and we are waiting on the results. Mom's next appointment is Monday to, I assume, review the test results and go from there. Over the phone, the doctor emphasized that 'it's nothing to worry about' and 'I'm sure it's a kidney strain'. My mother is not a boxer and doesn't have any specific injury that she could remember so that seems bogus. Mom has Kaiser. I'd be interested from hearing from anyone that has Kaiser and their experience with a thorough workup before jumping to conclusions about diagnosis (especially minimizing the situation).

I'm a researcher and everything online is telling me that it's bladder cancer! This article in particular:

I'm also reading that there is no real test for this type of thing and it requires a cystoscopy to really tell what's going on.

My mother tells me I'm a hypochondriac and that it's between her and her doctor. In reality, she's an avoider and is hoping to brush this whole thing away the moment the doctor says 'kidney strain'.

I'm keeping my mouth shut until Monday. Help me continue that trend, regardless of what happens at the doctor.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Your mom could have blood in her urine for all sorts of reasons, most of which aren't cancer.

You've jumped to the worst, most lethal conclusion here. She could have a kidney stone, a kidney infection, a bladder infection, a urinary tract infection, a reaction to a variety of medications, diabetes, viral infection, hypertension, too many beets, or... a kidney strain.

You can get strains inside the body without any outside interference- everything in there is twisted up and jumbled around. A torsion can happen without any interference whatsoever.

My mother tells me I'm a hypochondriac and that it's between her and her doctor.

Listen to your mother. If she's not worried, and her doctor's not worried, I won't tell you not to worry- just to be quiet. You can worry away in your head all you want. Just don't say anything out loud.
posted by headspace at 9:52 AM on August 21, 2010 [3 favorites]

Your mother sounds like she's handling this fine. Don't diagnose on the internet. Let her doctor find out what's wrong with her.
posted by fire&wings at 9:56 AM on August 21, 2010

My mother tells me I'm a hypochondriac and that it's between her and her doctor.

She's absolutely right. This is blunt, but the vast majority of people that piss blood don't have cancer or any other major problem.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 9:57 AM on August 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Here's the thing: right now you're wasting effort and energy and you're not helping your mom, who now has to console you in addition to dealing with her own emotions. Stop it. It doesn't make you a better child to be freaked out with worry. Stop reading WebMD. Stop asking people on the internet.

I say all of this because flying spaghetti monster forbid there is something seriously wrong with your mother's health you will then really understand what freaked out means, and you will need all your energy.

Go spend some time with your mom. Don't talk about it, just spend some time with her. That is the best, most useful thing you can do.
posted by micawber at 10:04 AM on August 21, 2010 [10 favorites]

Yeah, you're sort of blowing this out of proportion.

"I'm a researcher and everything online is telling me that it's bladder cancer!"

Here's some info from the first page of the WebMD article for "blood in urine":

Many conditions can cause blood in the urine. Some of these have no medical significance and do not require treatment. They usually go away by themselves. Others can be serious and require immediate treatment. Treatment depends on the underlying cause of the bleeding. Anytime you notice blood in the urine you need to consult a health care provider for an evaluation.

Cancer doesn't even make the list that follows and cystoscopy is only listed as a possible therapy for kidney stones. Even in the article you linked to, blood in urine was listed with pain which you specifically said she doesn't have. You've singled out the one symptom she has, ignored the other two and you're letting confirmation bias get the best of you. "Everything online" is telling you that cancer is one of the less likely possibilities out of many more common outcomes.

So try to calm down, let the doctor do his or her job and if there's any reason to suspect that she's been misdiagnosed (if it doesn't clear up, worsens, or doesn't make sense to you) encourage her to ask questions or get a second opinion. Panicking, even with the best intentions, will not help, nor will demanding expensive tests that may not be useful or relevant.
posted by Thin Lizzy at 10:21 AM on August 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

Yep, lot of reasons to pee blood for a little while, kidney infections being very common for women for just one. I've peed blood on average once a year and it's invariably not a big deal.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 10:25 AM on August 21, 2010

About twelve years ago, my father had bladder cancer. He'd been peeing blood (like, more discernibly blood than urine) for a week or more (without mentioning it to anyone) before he simply couldn't pee one day and finally went to the doctor. They treated him and - thank God - he ended up healthy.

If he were to get sick again, I would not be surprised if he didn't tell anyone. And that scares me a lot more than the idea of him just getting sick and handling it responsibly.

So to me, your mom doesn't sound like an avoider to me - she just sounds like an optimist. (And though it's frustrating from the outside, being optimistic is probably physically healthier for her than being stressed when she doesn't even have a certain diagnosis).

It's good that she's seeing a doctor she feels comfortable talking to. I hope she turns out to be fine. (And the optimism-is-healthier-than-stress thing goes for you, too - take care of yourself and don't worry too much).
posted by bubukaba at 11:22 AM on August 21, 2010

I had this symptom about 10 years ago and it scared me silly. No cancer, and no other obvious cause found. I'm still here and it has never happened again. Don't get hyped up till you need to.
posted by Logophiliac at 2:34 PM on August 21, 2010

As all of the above said, it is most likely fine and the doctor does not seem to be just brushing it off. They will start with bloodwork and urinalysis to check out how much blood there actually is and to look at kidney function. It can absolutely be just a UTI, stone, strain, or even no obvious cause at all. If the first few tests don't rule anything in or out, they'll do some ultrasounds, x-ray, and maybe cystoscopy (which sounds horrible but really isn't, or at least it wasn't for me). Please try to stay calm and take each step as it comes.
posted by dayintoday at 2:45 PM on August 21, 2010

In medicine, common things happen commonly. Bladder cancer is not that common. The reason the doctor is "minimizing" is that the risk is minimal. The doctor can think of a dozen things that might cause traces of blood in the urine, and the vast majority are not bladder cancer.

One saying in medicine is "when you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras." Med students (and people who are googling their symptoms) are more likely to pull out their zebra lassos too soon and diagnose the obscure, the dramatic. That's what you're doing.

Relax. It's not zebras.
posted by selfmedicating at 6:03 PM on August 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

When I was 10 I had blood in my urine, got ultrasound, kidney xrays, no cause found and it eventually stopped by itself.
It's not always the end of the world!
posted by chrisbucks at 7:03 PM on August 21, 2010

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