Bladder cancer is characterized by the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells on the inner lining of the bladder wall. Detecting bladder cancer early, before it spreads beyond the bladder, enhances the chances of successful treatment.
Bladder Cancer Symptoms: Blood in Urine (Hematuria)
A prominent sign of bladder cancer is hematuria, the presence of blood in the urine. However, this symptom may be caused by various factors such as trauma, infection, or kidney issues. Hematuria can be visible to the naked eye or detected through urine testing.
Bladder Cancer Symptoms
Bladder cancer may lead to changes in bladder habits, such as increased frequency or urgency to urinate. Pain or burning during urination, without evidence of a urinary tract infection, can also be indicative. Some cases, especially in advanced stages, may show no symptoms until the cancer becomes difficult to treat.
Possible Causes of Bladder Cancer: Smoking
Smoking is the most significant known risk factor for bladder cancer. Harmful chemicals from cigarette smoke enter the bloodstream and concentrate in the bladder, making smokers four times more likely to develop bladder cancer than nonsmokers.
Possible Causes of Bladder Cancer: Chemical Exposure
Certain occupational exposures to chemicals, such as those found in plastic or used in dye industries, increase the risk of bladder cancer. Occupations involving exposure to these chemicals, like metalworking or hairdressing, should follow safety protocols to minimize risk.
Who Is at Risk for Bladder Cancer?
While bladder cancer can affect anyone, men are three times more likely than women to develop it. Individuals over 55 and those with a family history, previous cancer treatment, or birth defects involving the bladder are at higher risk.
Bladder Cancer Diagnosis: Testing
There is no single test for bladder cancer, but a combination of tests, including cystoscopy, urinalysis, urine cytology, and imaging (intravenous pyelogram, CT scans, MRI, bone scan), help in diagnosis. A tissue biopsy remains the most reliable method.
Types of Bladder Cancer
Bladder cancers are classified by the type of cell affected. Transitional cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and adenocarcinoma are the primary types. Transitional cell carcinoma is the most common, and it can be low-grade or high-grade, with high-grade cases being more aggressive.
Stages of Bladder Cancer
The TNM system is used for staging bladder cancer based on tumor size, lymph node involvement, and metastasis. Stages range from non-invasive papillary carcinoma (Stage 0a) to invasive tumors penetrating surrounding tissues (Stage IV).
Bladder Cancer Treatment: Surgery
Transurethral resection, partial cystectomy, and radical cystectomy are common surgical approaches. Urinary diversion procedures are undertaken when the entire bladder is removed, creating alternative pathways for urine.
Bladder Cancer Treatment: Chemotherapy
Chemotherapy, either before or after surgery, targets cancer cells. Intravesical chemotherapy is effective for superficial bladder cancers, while systemic chemotherapy is necessary for deeper invasions.
Bladder Cancer Treatment: Immunotherapy
Immunotherapy involves introducing helpful bacteria into the bladder to stimulate the immune system. Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) is a commonly used bacteria in this treatment, which is effective for certain stages of bladder cancer.
Bladder Cancer Treatment: Radiation
Radiation therapy, using external or internal methods, is employed to destroy cancer cells. Side effects may include fatigue, nausea, and skin irritation.
Bladder Cancer Survival Rates and Prognosis
Survival rates depend on the stage at diagnosis. Early-stage cancers have high survival rates, while metastatic bladder cancer has a shorter life expectancy. The relative survival rates for all stages are 77% at 5 years, 70% at 10 years, and 65% at 15 years.
Sex After Bladder Cancer Treatment
Surgery can impact sexual function, causing changes such as difficulty achieving erections or cessation of semen production in men, and discomfort during sex in women.
Bladder Cancer Prevention
Although there is no guaranteed prevention method, adopting a healthy lifestyle, quitting smoking, limiting alcohol, maintaining a balanced diet, exercising, avoiding chemical exposures, and having regular checkups contribute to overall health.
New and Experimental Treatments for Bladder Cancer
Ongoing research explores innovative treatments like photodynamic therapy, gene therapy, and targeted therapy. Clinical trials are available for those seeking newer therapeutic options.
In conclusion, understanding bladder cancer symptoms, risk factors, and available treatments is crucial for early detection and improved outcomes. Regular medical checkups and a healthy lifestyle contribute significantly to reducing the risk of bladder cancer.
- Cancer.org: “Bladder Cancer”
- Clinical Medicine Research: “Gene Therapy for Cancer Treatment: Past, Present and Future”
- Radiologyinfo.org: “Positron Emission Tomography – Computed Tomography (PET/CT)”