What is Bladder Cancer?
Usually, bladder cancer starts in the cells lining the inside of your bladder (the muscular bag-like organ in the lower part of the abdomen that stores urine), although it may also appear in other sections of the urinary tract as well.
Almost all bladder cancers (approximately seven out of every 10) are diagnosed at an early stage when extremely treatable.
However, even early-stage bladder cancer may recur. For this reason, people with bladder cancer need routine follow-up tests for years after treatment to check for recurrences or advances to a higher stage.
Signs and Symptoms of Bladder Cancer
The following signs and symptoms may indicate the presence of bladder cancer, and in some cases other medical problems:
- Bloody urine (bright red or brownish) when urinating or when examined microscopy
- Pain when urinating
- Back pain
- Need to urinate frequently
Should any of these apply to you, consult with your physician, who will recommend examinations and tests if deemed necessary.
Risk Factors for Bladder Cancer
There are factors that may increase your chance of developing bladder cancer. These include:
- Age (risk increases with age)
- Ethnicity and gender (Caucasian males more susceptible)
- Family or personal history of bladder cancer or hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer/ Lynch syndrome
- Chronic bladder urinary infections/inflammations
- Contact with certain substances such as arsenic and various chemicals used in manufacturing processes
Stages of Bladder Cancer
The “staging” of bladder cancer defines it in terms of location, size, and how far it has spread. The stages are deemed the most reliable guides in charting treatment course and survival probability; the earlier the stage, the more improved are the chances of successful management.
The stages of bladder cancer are:
Stage I: In the lining of bladder but not yet in bladder wall
Stage II: Though still confined to bladder, has spread to bladder wall
Stage III: Expanded through bladder wall and into the tissues surrounding it
Stage IV: Spread to the lymph nodes and/or other organs.
Bladder Cancer Treatment
Treatment options for bladder cancer, which may include more than one, are dependent on its stage, your doctors’ recommendations, and other considerations. These include:
- Surgery to take out cancerous tissue
- Treatment confined to cancer in bladder lining (Intravesical chemotherapy) that carries a sizable risk of reoccurring or progressing to a more advanced stage
- Whole body chemotherapy (systemic) to increase probability for a cure when the bladder is being surgically removed, or as the primary treatment when surgery is not an option
- Reconstruction following bladder removal to establish a new route for urine to exit the body
- Immunotherapy to prompt the immune system (in bladder or throughout entire body) to attack cancer cells
- Radiation therapy, sometimes the primary treatment to terminate cancer cells, often used when surgery is not an option
If you are a loved one has been diagnosed with bladder cancer, discuss the details of each of your options with your physician. Before, during and after treatment, take care of your physical and emotional being. Don’t be afraid to ask for support, seeking counseling if needed.