When the cells in the inside lining of the bladder begin to proliferate incessantly, it leads to bladder cancer. Bladder is located in pelvis and stores urine. Though people of any age may get bladder cancer but older adults are mostly prone to the bladder cancer. What makes bladder cancer challenging is the fact that there are high chances of a recurrence. Even after treatment, survivors of bladder cancer have to regularly undergo tests to keep a tab on their bladder health.
What are the signs and symptoms of bladder cancer?
- Blood in urine (hematuria)
- Frequent urge to urinate
- Pain and burning sensation during urinating
- Pain in the back, abdominal area and pelvic area
If you experience any of these signs and symptoms, then meet your doctor immediately.
What are the different types of bladder cancer?
Depending on which bladder cells become cancerous, there are following different types of bladder cancer:
- Transitional cell carcinoma affects the transitional cells which are found in the lining of the urinary bladder, also known as urothelium and the cancer is also called urothelial cancer. These are functional when bladder contracts and relaxes. They all join together when there is no urine in bladder and they stretch out into a single layer when the bladder is full of urine. Transitional cell carcinoma appears when these cells come in contact with the waste products such as toxic chemicals in urine.
- Squamous cell bladder is usually caused by infection such as schistosomiasis and irritation in bladder.
- Adenocarcinoma is the tumour in the mucus-secreting glands of urinary bladder.
Sometimes, more than one type of cells may be involved in bladder cancer.
What are the stages of bladder cancer?
There are four stages of bladder cancer as mentioned below:
- Stage I – When the cancer is only present in inner lining of the bladder
- Stage II – When the cancerous cells have invaded the muscular wall of the bladder but have not spread beyond.
- Stage III – When the cancer cells have spread to the tissues surrounding the bladder wall, maybe in uterus and vagina in women, and prostate in men.
- Stage IV – When the cancer cells have spread to other organs such as lymph nodes, lungs, bones or liver
What are the causes and risk factors of bladder cancer?
The causes of bladder cancer are not completely known. Following factors are linked to causing mutation of the bladder cells and causing them to grow in an uncontrolled fashion and not die, thus, forming tumour.
- Harmful chemicals in smoking may damage the bladder lining
- Advancing age
- Exposure to chemicals such as those used in textiles, rubber, leather and paints
- Radiation treatment in pelvic area for cancer treatment
- Medicines for the treatment of diabetes such as pioglitazone
- Inflammation of bladder such as cystitis, UTIs, schistosomiasis
- Family history of cancer
What are the complications associated with bladder cancer?
Bladder cancer is a treatable disease but recurrent in nature. The survivors are advised to undergo continuous follow-up and screening every 3-5 months. The screening is done using Cystoscopy to check the insides of urethra and bladder of patient. You don’t have to live with the fear of recurrence of bladder cancer but learn how to cope with the situation by going for regular check-ups without delays, take good care of yourself by making small lifestyle changes, and stay in touch with others who are also in similar situation.
What are the tests and procedures to diagnose bladder cancer?
Cystscopy, biopsy, CT scan, urine analysis and imaging tests such as intravenous pyelogram are used to diagnose bladder cancer.
How is bladder cancer treated?
- Surgical to remove the tumour, a small portion of the bladder or entire bladder.
- Chemotherapy using chemotherapeutic drugs to kill cancer cells. This may be used before and after surgical procedures.
- Radiotherapy using high-energy radiation to destroy the cancer cells.
- Immunotherapy involves stimulating the immune system of the body to fight against cancerous cells
How to prevent bladder cancer?
Adopt these lifestyle changes to keep bladder cancer at bay:
- Give up smoking
- Drink plenty of water to excrete wastes from your body
- If you work with toxic chemicals, then do follow safety precautions
- Eat a well-balanced diet with good amounts of fruits and vegetables