Cancer in the bladder is one of the more common cancers that affect over sixty-eight thousand humans across the United States every year. While bladder cancer typically affects more men than women, and older adults rather than the younger, it can happen at any age. This type of cancer begins in the urothelial cells that line the inside of your bladder. Your bladder is a hollow, muscular organ in your lower abdomen that stores urine until it is released. In most cases, this cancer grows directly in the bladder, but in some cases, cancer can grow anywhere in the urinary tract or urinary drainage system.
Out of all of the bladder cancers diagnosed, seven out of ten will be diagnosed at an early stage which is when this cancer is highly treatable. While this is a more treatable form of cancer in the early stages, bladder cancer may continue to reoccur throughout the years. Due to this, those who have bladder cancer will require regular doctor and specialist visits through the years to ensure or catch it early once again if and when it does return.
What are the signs and symptoms of bladder cancer?
There are certain things you can look for if you suspect you may have a bladder issue or bladder cancer. They are:
- blood in the urine which is also called hematuria
- painful urination
- pelvic pain
- back pain
- frequent urination
If you have blood in your urine, your urine could be any color from light pink to bright red, or even colored like a dark cola. Other times, you might not notice any color change or see specs of blood. Some of the blood detected in urine can only be seen through a microscope and with lab testing. All of these above symptoms can be tied to other bladder issues and infections as well. Simply having these symptoms does not mean that you have bladder cancer. You should see your doctor and specialists for a diagnosis first.
If at any time you have blood in your urine, do not wait to contact your doctor and make an appointment to be seen immediately.
What are the causes linked to bladder cancer?
Bladder cancer, like most other cancers, begins with uncontrolled and abnormal cell growth in the bladder. Clumps of these cells grow into tumors, which can then become malignant. Some of the causes of bladder cancer are:
- past radiation exposure
- smoking and other types of tobacco use
- exposure to chemicals, or hazardous job with exposure to chemicals
- chronic irritation inside the bladder or inflamed bladder lining
- parasitic infections from traveling abroad
Sometimes there are no real clear reasons why someone gets bladder cancer, as some people who are diagnosed have no known cause.
What types of bladder cancer are there?
Depending on the type of abnormal cell growth or tumors in your bladder, certain types may or may not be cancerous. The type of bladder cancer you have determines the type of treatment you will need. Some cancers of this type have more than one type of cancer cell and may require specialized treatments. Types of bladder cancer include:
- Adenocarcinoma begins in the cells that make up the mucous-secreting glands in the bladder. This type of cancer is rare in the United States.
- Squamous cell carcinoma is linked with chronic inflammation and irritation of the bladder. For example, those using long-term catheters for urinary release may be at a higher risk factor for this type of bladder cancer. This type of cancer is more common in parts of the world where certain parasites cause schistosomiasis infections.
- Urothelial carcinoma or transitional cell carcinoma occurs in the cells that line the inner lining of the bladder. These cells expand when your bladder is full and contract when your bladder is empty. These same cells line the insides of the urethra and ureters, and cells can abnormally grow in these areas as well. Urothelial carcinoma is the most common type of bladder cancer in the United States.
What are the risk factors that increase my chances of developing bladder cancer?
There are several factors that play a part with increasing one’s risk for bladder cancer, or any type of cancer for that matter. These risk factors include:
- Being a male, as the chances of a man developing bladder cancer are much higher than that for a woman.
- Being Caucasian automatically increases the risk of bladder cancer, as white Americans have a greater risk for this cancer.
- Being a smoker or tobacco user with cigars, chew, and pipes increase the risk of bladder cancer, and many other cancers as well. The toxic chemicals put into this tobacco can accumulate and build up in your urine and cells. When you inhale and exhale smoke, your body acts as a filter to try to remove some of the chemicals, but many are stuck in the urine. When urine is held in the bladder with these toxic chemicals, this can increase irritation and your overall risk.
- Aging and getting older increases your risk for bladder cancer.
- Chemical exposure can play a role in increasing your risk for bladder cancer because the kidneys are working hard on filtering out harmful toxins from your bloodstream that will eventually move into your bladder. Chemicals linked to bladder cancer include arsenic, and those chemicals in dyes, rubber, leather, latex, textiles and paint products.
- Previous cancer treatments with the anti-cancer drug cyclophosphamide increase this risk. Those who received radiation treatments for any length of tie aimed at the pelvis or abdomen can also have an elevated risk for bladder cancer.
- Chronic bladder infections and inflammation like cystitis, or the frequent use of a catheter, can increase the risk for squamous cell carcinoma bladder cancer.
- If you have had bladder cancer previously, you are more likely to get this reoccurring cancer again. If a first-degree relative like your parent, sibling or child has a history of bladder cancer, you may have an increased risk as well. A family history containing hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer or Lynch syndrome can increase the overall risk of cancer in the urinary system, and the colon, uterus and other organs as well.
Are there any ways I can try to prevent bladder cancer?
Although there are no guaranteed methods or tricks to avoid bladder cancer, there are a few steps that may help to reduce your risk factors, like:
- Taking extreme caution around chemicals or respiratory sensitive situations. This might mean wearing a mask around paint or other chemicals and avoiding air pollutants.
- If you smoke, STOP! Not smoking means you are not forcefully introducing your body to toxic chemicals with every inhale or helping your body to become addicted to nicotine. There are many options and smoking cessation classes and programs that can help even the long-term smoker quit. There are also medications that can be prescribed to help ease the cravings and need that being addicted to smoking cigarettes causes.
- Eat a well-balanced diet with as many natural foods, vegetables, and fruits as you can get. Choose a rainbow of colors and you will be sure to get the nutrients, minerals, and vitamins you need.
If you think you might be dealing with bladder issues that resemble and sound like it could be bladder cancer, do not hesitate to contact your doctor or urologist for a consultation to find out the root cause of your medical distress. Remember that many symptoms and illnesses can be related to the bladder distress and symptoms listed here. Your medical care team can provide you with a plan of treatment to help with the bladder issues you are experiencing.