What is Bladder Cancer?: Get the Facts
Bladder cancer is a condition caused by Bladder abnormal tissue/cell growth also known as tumor. As its name suggests, Bladder Cancer occurs as a result of abnormal growth of cells lining the Bladder. The tumor spreads into the adjacent muscles and other cells developing in cancer.
You may ask yourself what the Bladder is. It is a small and hollow organ found on the Pelvis, which stores your urine before it leaves the body through the Urethra during urination. This function has made the Bladder an important organ of the urinary tract. Other organs of the urinary tract you may know are the Ureters, Kidneys and the Urethra.
Bladder cancer starts when health cells lining the Bladder, commonly known as Urothelial cells, change and have uncontrolled growth forming a mass of cells known as a tumor. A tumor can develop into cancer or benign. A cancerous Bladder tumor is said to be malignant since it can spread to its adjacent organs of the body.
Risk factors to Bladder Cancer
Risk factors are any factors which increase one’s chances of developing Bladder Cancer. Risk factors often catalyze the development of cancer but are not involved directly in causing it. Many people who have several risk factors never develop cancer at all; while others who have no known risk factors may develop cancer. Knowing your risk factors is an important thing since you can talk to your doctor to help you live an informed and a healthy life.
Below are some risk factors that may increase your chances of getting Bladder Cancer:
- Gender. According to research and statistics, men are more likely to develop bladder cancer compared to women. However, women are more likely to die of bladder cancer compared to men.
- Tobacco use. Cigarette smoking is the most common cause of every type of cancer. Smokers are 4-7 times more likely to develop Bladder Cancer compared to non-smokers. Apart from cigarette, smoking from pipes and cigars can also increase one's risk of suffering from Bladder Cancer.
- Age. Development of Bladder Cancer increases with age. According to statistics, 70% of men and women diagnosed with bladder cancer are 65 years or more.
- Chemicals. Some chemicals used in textile and print industries such as paints, rubber and dye can increase your risks of developing Bladder Cancer. Other chemicals catalyzing the development of Bladder Cancer include some naturally occurring chemicals and some aromatic chemicals such as Benzene.
- Race. Statistics show that white people are more likely to develop Bladder Cancer compared to the black. The reason why this happens has not yet been identified. However, black people are more likely to die of bladder cancer compared to the white.
- Chronic Bladder conditions. Some Bladder infections such as Bladder Stones may increase one's risk of getting Bladder Cancer. Bladder Cancer is common to people with a history of urinary infections.
- Use of Cyclophosphamide. This is a Chemotherapy drug mainly used to treat minor tumors. Individuals who have taken this drug are at higher risk of getting Bladder Cancer.
- Bladder Cancer history. People who have a history of Bladder Cancer are likely to develop it again.
- Exposure to Arsenic. This is a naturally occurring chemical which is very hazardous when used in large amounts. Sometimes it is found in drinking water and it has been associated with Bladder Cancer.
- Schistosomiasis. People who have been diagnosed with this parasitic disease have a high risk of developing Bladder Cancer.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Bladder Cancer
People who have Bladder Cancer may experience some unique signs and symptoms. However, some people with this type of cancer may not show these symptoms. Maybe the following symptoms are caused by other underlying medical conditions which may not be Bladder Cancer. These symptoms are:
- Frequent urination
- Presence of blood or blood clots in urine
- Abdominal pain on one body side
- Unable to pass urine despite the feeling to urinate
- Burning sensation or pain during urination
- Feeling to urinate many times at night
Your doctor can diagnose Bladder Cancer in case you have countable or enough blood in the urine. This condition is called Hematuria.
How is Bladder Cancer Diagnosed?
You doctor can use a number of diagnostic tests to tell whether Bladder Cancer has spread to other body parts or not, a condition known as Metastasis. Some tests help you get the most effective medication. Your doctor also may consider the following factors before deciding the test you may have:
- Your previous test results
- Your symptoms
- Your age
- Your medical condition
Below are tests used to diagnose Bladder Cancer.
- Cytoscopy. This test allows your doctor to view the inside of your body with a lighted thin flexible tube known as Cytoscope. This is the main diagnostic procedure for Bladder Cancer
- Urine Tests. In this test, a sample of your urine is tested to see if it contains tumor cells. Tumor cells can be viewed under powerful microscopes, a procedure known as urinary cytology.
- TURBT. If an abnormal tissue is found during Cystoscopy procedure, the healthcare provider will consider doing a Biopsy. Biopsy involves removal of a small tissue suspected to have tumor and examining it under a powerful microscope. This procedure is commonly known as Transurethral Bladder Tumor Resection (TURBT). After TURBT is done, a Urologist examines the Bladder to detect any change in mass. This procedure is known as Exam Under Anesthesia (EUA).
Staging and Grading
Once your doctor has done all the tests, it is possible to tell the stage and the grade of your Bladder Cancer. Staging of Bladder Cancer is the measurement of the area your cancer has spread to. The lower stages of Bladder Cancer are small and are likely to get better with treatment.
Grading of Bladder Cancer is the measurement of the likelihood of a cancer to spread. Grading of bladder cancer is described using a system of numbers from G1 to G3. High grade cancers have the likelihood of spreading compared to low grade cancers.
The commonly used Bladder Cancer staging system is the TNM system, where:
T: stands for the far your Bladder Tumor has grown.
N: stands for whether your Bladder Cancer has spread to the neighboring Lymph Nodes.
M: stands for whether your Bladder Cancer has spread to other body parts such as the Lungs. This process is known as Metastasis.
Treatment for Bladder Cancer
Treatment or medication for Bladder Cancer may depend on a number of factors. These factors include the stage and grade of the cancer, body’s overall health and the patient’s treatment choice. Doctors are able to tell which treatments suit different patients.
Treatment options for early stage Bladder Cancer are:
- Surgery to take out the tumor.
- Biological therapy also called Immunotherapy.
- Surgery to remove a small portion of the Bladder and the tumor.
Treatments for Bladder Cancer which has invaded the deeper parts of the Bladder are:
- Surgery to remove the whole Bladder
- Surgery to pave a new way for urine to leave the body
As you have seen, Bladder Cancer is a very serious condition which can be painful and disturbing. Treatment for Bladder Cancer requires a long procedure which is expensive. Although it is not easy to prevent Bladder Cancer, you can avoid the above risk factors catalyzing its development.