Cancer is growth of abnormal cells in body. Bladder cancer usually starts in lining of bladder, organ that stores urine after it has been expelled from kidneys. Most bladder cancers are detected early, treated very successfully, and disease does not spread beyond bladder. But bladder cancer often recurs, so regular checkups are important.
Warning sign: blood in urine
Blood in urine can be a sign of bladder cancer that can be seen with naked eye or detected with routine tests. Urine may look darker than usual, brown, or (rarely) bright red. Most often, blood in urine is not caused by cancer, but by other causes. These include sports, injuries, infections, blood or kidney disease, and medications such as blood thinners.
Warning signs: Bladder changes
Bladder symptoms are more likely to be caused by diseases other than cancer. But bladder cancer can sometimes change way bladder works, including:
Urinary tract infections or bladder stones can cause similar symptoms but require different treatment.What are risk factors for bladder cancer?
Risk factor: smoking
Although exact cause of bladder cancer is unknown, smoking is a major risk factor. Smokers are four times more likely to develop bladder cancer than people who have never smoked. The chemicals in tobacco smoke are carried from lungs into bloodstream and then filtered through kidneys and into urine. This concentrates harmful chemicals in bladder, where they can damage cells, which can lead to cancer.
Risk Factor: Chemical Exposure
Studies show that certain occupations may increase risk of developing bladder cancer. Metallurgists, mechanics, and barbers can be exposed to cancer-causing chemicals. If you work with dyes or in production of rubber, textiles, leather, or paints, be sure to follow safety precautions to reduce your exposure to hazardous chemicals. Smoking further increases risk of chemical exposure.
Other risk factors
Anyone can get bladder cancer, but following factors increase risk:
Other factors include a family history of bladder cancer, prior cancer treatment, certain birth defects of bladder, and chronic bladder irritation.Bladder cancer: examination, types, stages
There is no routine screening for bladder cancer. But if you are at high risk or have symptoms, your doctor may start with a urine test and, if needed, a camera-tipped cystoscopy. A cystoscope can be used to take small tissue samples. The Biopsy is performed under a microscope. A biopsy is best way to diagnose cancer.
If cancer is found, imaging studies can show if it has spread outside bladder. Intravenous pyelography uses a contrast agent to show contours of kidneys, bladder, and ureters, tubes that carry urine to bladder. CT and MRI provide more detailed images and can show nearby lymph nodes. Ultrasound uses sound waves instead of radiation to create images. Additional imaging tests will detect lung cancer and bone metastases.
Types of bladder cancer
The main types of bladder cancer are named after type of cancer cells. The most common is urothelial cancer, which begins in cells lining bladder. Squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma are less common.
Stage of bladder cancer
Stage 0. The cancer remains in inner layers. Stage 1: The cancer has spread to wall of bladder. Stage II: Cancer has reached muscle of bladder wall. Stage III: The cancer has spread to fatty tissue around bladder and possibly to nearby lymph nodes. It can also affect men (prostate) or women (uterus or vagina). Stage IV: Cancer has spread to distant sites such as pelvic cavity or abdominal wall, lymph nodes or bones, liver or lungs.Bladder cancer treatment
Transurethral surgery is most commonly used for early stage cancer. If cancer has spread to most of bladder, surgeon may perform a partial cystectomy, which removes part of bladder and nearby lymph nodes. In men, prostate gland and seminal vesicles may also be removed. In women, uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries, and part of vagina may also be removed.
If entire bladder needs to be removed, surgeon will create another way to store and deliver urine. Part of your intestines can be used to create a tube that allows urine to flow into an external ostomy bag. In some cases, internal tanks may be built and drained through pipelines. New procedures offer possibility of normal urination by creating an artificial bladder.
Chemotherapy involves drugs designed to kill cancer cells. These drugs may be given before surgery to shrink tumor and make it easier to remove. Chemotherapy is also used to kill cancer cells left after surgery, making cancer less likely to come back. Hair loss, nausea, loss of appetite and fatigue are common side effects. These medications can be given through a vein or injected directly into bladder.
Immunotherapy helps body's immune system attack bladder cancer cells. A treatment called BCG, in which beneficial bacteria are sent directly to bladder through a catheter. Another type of treatment, called immune checkpoint inhibitors, makes it easier for immune system to overcome defenses of cancer cells. These drugs are mainly for treatment of advanced cancer and are given intravenously every 2 to 3 weeks. Flu-like symptoms are a common side effect of these treatments.
Radiation uses invisible, high-energy beams, such as x-rays, to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Most often it is created by external devices. Radiation is often used along with other treatments such as chemotherapy and surgery. This may be main treatment for people who cannot undergo surgery. Side effects include nausea, fatigue, skin irritation, diarrhea, and pain when urinating.Survival rates for bladder cancer
Survival is closely related to stage of diagnosis. About half of bladder cancers occur when disease is limited to lining of bladder. Nearly 96 percent of these people lived at least five years longer than those without bladder cancer. The more advanced cancer, lower number. But keep in mind that these rates are based on people who were diagnosed between 2008 and 2014. The treatment and outlook for cancer diagnosed today could be better. Everyone's situation is different.
After all, cancer changes lives. While there is no surefire way to prevent a relapse, there are steps you can take to feel and stay healthy. Eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and moderate amounts of lean meats is a great start. If you smoke, stop. Women are allowed one drink per day and men are allowed two drinks per day. Daily exercise and regular checkups will also keep you healthy and give you peace of mind.