Did you know that the chances of men developing bladder cancer are at least three times higher than that of women? Bladder cancer is one of the most common genitourinary tract cancers, affecting the hollow organ where urine from the kidneys is collected.
Bladder cancer, when diagnosed and treated during its early stages, can be effectively treated. Unfortunately, treatments for bladder cancer may result in various complications. For men, surgery to remove the bladder can actually result in erectile dysfunction. Continue reading to learn more about bladder cancer.
When abnormal cells grow in your bladder, it may develop into bladder cancer, which can either be malignant or benign. If the cancerous growth is malignant, it can spread quickly, causing damage to your tissues and organs and spreading the disease to other parts of your body.
Majority of bladder cancer patients are aged 55 years or older. During the early stages of bladder cancer, the symptoms are quite similar to other bladder diseases such as bladder infection, so you may mistake bladder cancer for a less severe condition.
Bladder cancer commonly begins in the cells that make up the inner lining of your bladder, called transitional epithelium cells. There are actually various types of bladder cancer based on the type of bladder cells that cancer grows from.
TCC or transitional cell carcinoma is considered the most commonly diagnosed form of bladder cancer. TCC can either be papillary carcinoma or flat carcinoma. The other types of bladder cancer include squamous cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma, small cell carcinoma, and sarcoma.
Risk Factors Of Bladder Cancer
The specific cause of bladder cancer still remains to be determined. However, it is widely believed that genetic mutations play a key role in the development of bladder cancer. These genetic mutations may either be acquired during your lifetime, or you may inherit them from one or both of your parents.
Tobacco consumption is also considered to be a risk factor for bladder cancer, and the same goes for exposure to toxic chemicals such as when your occupation requires you to handle hazardous chemicals.
Risks of bladder cancer are also higher in those who are suffering from long-term or chronic bladder infections, especially if the patient is already quite elderly. If you have received chemotherapy or pelvic radiation, these treatments may also increase your risks.
The medicines cyclophosphamide which is used in chemotherapy, pioglitazone, and aristolochic acid may also increase your risks. Not drinking enough fluids, when in combination with other risk factors, may also your likelihood to develop bladder cancer.
Symptoms Of Bladder Cancer
When you see a color change in your urine such as when it has turned pink, orange, or even dark red, that’s actually one of the first symptoms of bladder cancer. The presence of blood is the reason why your urine has changed colors. This is referred to as hematuria.
Unfortunately, there’s often only one or a few episodes of hematuria at the onset of bladder cancer, then your urine becomes clear again. If it happens only once, people tend to just ignore it or forget about it, until it happens again.
If you didn’t go for a check-up the first time it happened, it could mean that you lost your chance to have your bladder cancer diagnosed early. The next episode of hematuria may occur when bladder cancer has already spread.
Other symptoms of bladder cancer occur when the disease has already advanced. These include abdominal pain, fatigue or weakness, and significant loss of body weight. In fact, aside from hematuria, urinary problems are among the first symptoms of bladder cancer to show.
For instance, your urine flow may start and stop. You may also experience dysuria which means that you feel a burning sensation or you feel pain when you urinate. You may also frequently feel the urge to urinate.
If you’re experiencing back pain, it could mean that cancer has already spread from its original location in your bladder. These symptoms are actually similar to various urinary or bladder diseases, so you’ll need to have a thorough medical examination for an accurate diagnosis.
Diagnosis Of Bladder Cancer
Various tests are necessary for the proper diagnosis of bladder cancer. These diagnostic tests may include urinalysis, cystoscopy, and urine cytology test. When you undergo cystoscopy, your doctor will conduct a visual examination of your bladder wall. This will be through the use of a small scope with a camera attached to it.
Urine cytology test, on the other hand, is done to identify the specific cancer cell type, since there are many types of cells that can cause bladder cancer. Your doctor may also conduct a bladder biopsy during your cystoscopy.
Once the diagnosis is established as bladder cancer, it will be categorized into either of two types. If you have a superficial or non-invasive bladder cancer, it means that the cancerous growth is limited to your superficial bladder wall. With this type of bladder cancer, lesions form on your bladder wall.
These lesions actually recur even after surgical removal. So you’ll need to go back to your doctor regularly for follow-up cystoscopy examinations. Non-invasive bladder cancer is the most prevalent type of bladder cancer.
On the other hand, invasive bladder cancer is very life-threatening. With this type of cancer, the disease spreads quickly. The cancer is described as invasive because the cancerous growth invades not just the bladder wall but also the muscle layers located deep in the bladder.
Treatment Of Bladder Cancer
The treatment will depend on which type of bladder cancer you have developed and your general medical condition. For non-invasive bladder cancer, the tumors and lesions that formed on your bladder wall are surgically removed. You may also need to undergo chemotherapy or immunotherapy.
For invasive bladder cancer, since the cancerous growth attacks the bladder’s deep muscles, radical cystectomy is performed to completely remove the bladder. This is to prevent cancer from spreading to other important organs in the body.
Unfortunately, radical cystectomy also entails the removal of the prostate and seminal vesicles. This means that your fertility and sexual function will be affected. Radical cystectomy also means that you no longer have an organ to collect your urine.
To restore your body’s capability to excrete urine, your doctor may either create a new bladder for you using a part of your small intestine. In some cases, urine is collected through the skin using a sachet attached to your body.