What you need to know about Bladder Cancer

Facts & Stats

Bladder cancer is a very common form of cancers that impacts more than a million adults across the world every year. It is mostly found to affect more men than women. While most of the occurrences take place in older adults, it can impact a person at any age. About 70% of all cases of bladder cancers are detected at an early stage which means that it can be treated with accuracy. However, the symptoms of bladder cancer recur in most cases, due to which it is important that follow up tests and diagnostic methods are carried out even after the completion of the treatment.

Symptoms

The main symptoms of bladder cancer are hematuria or presence of blood in urine, pelvic pains and pains felt during urination. The presence of blood in urine can be only a little bit or sufficiently enough to change the color of urine. However, this does not mean you will spot blood in your urine every single time you pee. It may come and go from time to time. You may also need to pee more than usual or find it difficult to pee. Plenty of people feel like they need to urinate even if their bladder is not full. Additional symptoms include pains in the lower back area, loss of weight even without any conscious attempt, lack of hunger, weakness, painful bones and swollen feet.

Stages

The extent to which the cancer has spread is described with the letters T, N and M where T is tumor, N is lymph nodes and M is metastasized. The stage of the cancer is further described with a number that follows these letters.

  • Stage 0: The cancer is mainly concentrated on the center of the bladder. It hasn’t affected the tissues, bladder wall muscles, lymph nodes or any other organs.
  • Stage I: Cancer has spread across the bladder’s inner lining but hasn’t affected the bladder wall muscles, lymph nodes or other distant organs.
  • Stage II: Cancer has spread through connective tissues within your bladder as well as the muscle layers.
  • Stage III: Cancer impacts the fatty tissues surrounding the bladder. At this stage, it can also affect the prostate, vagina, or uterus but not the lymph nodes or the distant organs.
  • Stage IV: In this stage, cancer if going to spread from the bladder to the abdominal or pelvic wall without impacting the lymph nodes or other distant organs. Alternatively, it can also affect the nearby lymph nodes and also affect distant locations like bones, lungs, or liver.

Causes

Here are some of the major causes responsible for bladder cancer.

  • Smoking and use of other tobacco products
  • Parasitic infections
  • Exposure to harmful chemicals
  • Past radiation exposure
  • Chronic irritation of bladder lining

It is important to note that there can also be other factors that lead to bladder cancer. The medical community is not fully sure as to which factors definitively lead to this form of cancer. Many people with no exposure to obvious risk factors have been found to develop bladder cancer. The three different types of bladder cancer, namely Urothelial carcinoma, Squamous cell carcinoma and Adenocarcinoma may have different causes.

Diagnosis

While diagnosing bladder cancer, the doctor is going to see whether you have a family history of this condition. The doctor is also going to carry out a pelvic exam if you are a woman or a DRE (digital rectal exam. The process of digital rectal exam can help the doctor to detect the presence of a tumor inside the rectum. The other tests that can be performed to detect bladder cancer include Urinalysis, Urine cytology, Urine culture, Urine tumor marker tests, Cystoscopy, Transurethral Resection of Bladder Tumor or TURBT, Retrograde pyelogram, Intravenous pyelogram (IVP), MRI, CT Scan, Chest X-ray, Ultrasound and Bone scan.

Treatment

Early stage bladder cancers are mostly treated with transurethral resection of bladder tumor. In case you still have a bladder cancer, a cystectomy procedure will be carried out. The surgeon will take a look at the extent of cancer to choose between a partial and a radical cystectomy. Intravesical therapy is yet another method of treatment used for the early stage cases. The doctor may opt for immunotherapy or intravesical chemotherapy to destroy the cancer cells. In case these methods do not produce the desirable results, the doctors may go for systemic chemotherapy and radiation therapy as they have been proven to be extremely effective.

Prevention

One of the best ways to prevent bladder cancer is to include a lot of fruits and vegetables. It has been noted that having a lot of leafy green vegetables and fresh fruits can minimize your chances of having cancer. You also need to drink a lot of water as this can help to get rid of toxins from your body. You should also quit smoking and stay away from tobacco in case you do not have the habit of smoking. There are also certain workplace chemicals like arsenic, aniline, some herbal supplements and diabetes medicines which can lead to bladder cancer.