Overview of Bladder Cancer
The most common form of cancer is bladder cancer and is found in almost 68,000 adults in the United States. This type of cancer is more common in men than women and happens at almost any age; though it is more common in older adults. Bladder cancer will always begin in the urothelial cells, which line the bladder. This type of cancer may also be found in the urinary tract drainage system. We can usually diagnose bladder cancer in its early stages. When it is caught in its earliest stages, then it can be very simple to treat. When you have completed bladder cancer treatment, you must continue to follow up with your physician through testing to ensure the cancer does not come back or advance to the next stages of cancer.
About the Bladder
The bladder is a muscular organ that stores the urine and is located in the lower abdomen. When someone has bladder cancer, the cancer begins in the urothelial cells. The urothelial cells line the inside of the bladder.
Types of Bladder Cancer
There are three main types of bladder cancer. The type of bladder cancer that is occurring depends on the cells that are in the bladder that become cancerous and treatment will depend on the type of cancer that you have.
The most common type of bladder cancer is call urothelial carcinoma. This may also be called transitional cell carcinoma, which occurs in the cells of the lining of the bladder. When the bladder becomes full, the cells will expand and will contract when empty.
Squamous cell carcinoma is very rare in the United States and is more prominent in places where parasitic infections are common. This type of cancer is often affiliated with consistent irritation of the bladder.
Adenocarcinoma is a bladder cancer that occurs in the mucus-secreting glands located in the bladder. This type of cancer is also very rare in the United States.
In some cases, the bladder cancer is a combination of all three of these cancers.
Symptoms of Bladder Cancer
Symptoms of bladder cancer can vary from person to person and the type of bladder cancer that you may have. The most common symptoms include: pelvic pain, painful urination, and/ or blood in the urine. Hematuria is more frequently called blood in the urine. The blood in the urine may be red, pink, or cola colored. In some cases, the eye may not be able to see blood in the urine, but it can be seen under a microscope by your physician. Some people experience back pain or frequent urination is also common. These symptoms can often be overlooked as a problem associated with something else. If you are having blood in the urine or any type of back and bladder pain, it is important to schedule a visit with your physician.
Causes of Bladder Cancer
There is not obvious cause of bladder cancer in most cases. People that have prolonged tobacco use or exposure to various types of radiation are the most common cases of bladder cancer. Chemical exposures are most common to happen at work.
In bladder cancer that is caused by parasitic infections, this may have occurred if you have traveled overseas. Bladder cancer typically occurs when cells in the bladder grow and divide and never die off. This is considered to be a mutation.
Risks of Bladder Cancer
There are various risks that are associated with bladder cancer. Tobacco use is the most common risk that is associated with many cancers, including bladder cancer. The body processes the chemicals that are in tobacco products through the urine, which causes severe damage to the lining. The kidneys are responsible for filtering out the chemicals.
If you have worked around chemicals, then you are also at a high risk for having bladder cancer.
If you have already been through cancer treatment, then you are at an increased risk for bladder cancer because your body has been exposed to drugs that can cause bladder cancer.
This type of cancer is most commonly seen in patients that are over the age of 40, are men, or are white.
Diagnosis of Bladder Cancer
There are a variety of tests that may be done to diagnose bladder cancer. To begin, your physician may ask for a urine sample to see if there is blood in the urine, also called urine cytology.
A cystoscopy is a test that is done by placing a small tube in through the urethra. This scope has a lens that allows the physician to see inside the urethra and the bladder. They are able to see signs of cancer here and they may take a sample biopsy.
At our office, we offer imaging tests, such as a computerized tomography urogram, or computerized tomography (CT) scan. This test allows your physician to see the structures in the urinary tract. We begin by inserting a contrast dye in the vein of your hand. This dye will then flow into the bladder, kidneys, and ureters. The images that we take show a very detailed view of this.
Once a bladder cancer diagnosis has occurred, there are various other tests that your physician may order in an effort to see the progression of the cancer and if it has spread to other areas of the body. Another CT scan, chest x-ray, or a bone scan may be done to check the other areas. Once the images at our office are complete, a number will be assigned to the cancer ranging from 0 to IV, with IV being the highest.
If the cancer has not spread to other areas of the body, then the bladder cancer can be further classified into how the cells look in the microscope. The physician will be able to describe the type of bladder tumor from low- grade to high-grade. A low-grade has cells that are very close in appearance and are organized and grow very slowly. They are rarely able to go into the muscular wall. The opposite is true for a high-grade bladder tumor. They are poorly differentiated, grow fast, and are very likely to spread.
Treatment of Bladder Cancer
Treatment of the bladder cancer will depend on a couple of factors. First, your physician will need to know the type, if it has spread, the stage, grade, and your overall health. If there are tissues that are cancerous that need to be removed, then surgery may be recommended. Your physician may be able to reconstruct how the urine exits the body.
In some cases, chemotherapy is recommended to treat the tumors but there is a high risk that these tumors will return. This treatment will be recommended when surgery is not an option. Radiation therapy may also be an option for you.
Prevention of Bladder Cancer
Since there is not a certain reason why bladder cancer occurs, it is very difficult to say a reason of what steps need to be taken to prevent bladder cancer. In an effort to maintain a healthy body, you will want to take good care of your body. The first step is to quit tobacco products, if applicable. If you work in an environment where you are exposed to chemicals, then follow the precautions to avoid exposure. It is also essential to eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly.
Support with Bladder Cancer
Once you have completed your bladder cancer treatment, continue going to see your physician regularly and proceeding with testing as needed. Ask your physician if there are support groups for others that have gone through bladder cancer as well. Have a close group of friends who you trust to talk to about how you are feeling and communicate regularly. It is important to not feel defeated. If you are a smoker and need help quitting, reach out to your physician for smoking cessation help. Get enough sleep, exercise, and eat well. Ask for help as much as you need,