What is Bladder Cancer?
Bladder cancer is one of the most common types of cancer which affects millions of people across the globe. This cancer first develops in the cells known as urothelial cells of the bladder. The bladder is part of the body that stores urine and is located in the lower abdomen. After the cells, it spreads into the lines of the bladder. Urothelial cells are also present in the kidneys and the ureters, thus it causes urothelial cancer but that is less common than bladder cancer. If diagnosed early bladder cancer can be cured totally but it may reoccur after some time in some rare cases and because of this, it’s important for the patient to visit his doctor once in a while for follow-up tests.
What are the Types of Bladder Cancer?
There are four types of bladder cancer:
Urothelial bladder cancer: It’s the most common type of bladder cancer and most people with bladder cancer have urothelial bladder cancer. In the first stage, the cells start ( transitional or urothelial cells) to develop in the bladder lining also known as urothelium. When the bladder becomes vacant, these cells get assembled. After the bladder gets filled with urine the cells spread into a single layer. After the cells get in contact with waste products in the urine it may lead to cancer.
Squamous cell bladder cancer: It’s a rare type of cancer as compared to urothelial bladder cancer and consists of 5% of bladder cancer patients. It is caused by squamous cells which are also responsible for the moist, skin-like tissues lining the body organs. These cells cause squamous cell bladder cancer.
Adenocarcinoma: Adenocarcinoma is rarer than even squamous cell bladder cancer as only 1 to 2% develop this type of bladder cancer and is mostly invasive.
Sarcomas: It’s also very rare and usually, sarcomas develop from the bladder muscle or other structural tissues. Two different types of sarcomas grow in the bladder lining. Cancers that develop in the bladder muscle are called sarcomas and the second one is called small cell cancer of the bladder. The treatment of these two is also different.
What are The Symptoms of Bladder Cancer?
The main symptoms of bladder cancer include:
- You may notice blood in your urine while peeing and cause the colour of urine to become bright red or colo coloured.
- Urinating frequently
- Problem in urinating as the flow of the pee like peeing suddenly stops or the flow of the pee is unusual, unlike normal urinating.
- Pain in back
- Constant infections in the bladder which may be a sign of bladder cancer or any kind of bladder infection
What are the Causes of Bladder Cancer?
Though researchers are not able to find out the exact cause of bladder cancer, still they have identified some causes that may lead to bladder cancer including.
Smoking Cigarettes: If you are a smoker then there are more chances of you developing bladder cancer as compared to non-smokers. Not only cigarettes but smoking pipes and cigars and even secondhand smoke can be a reason for bladder cancer.
Exposure to Radiation: If you have been a cancer patient and radiation therapy is used during the treatment then the chances of developing bladder cancer increase.
Chemotherapy: Taking certain chemotherapy medicines sometimes can be a reason for developing bladder cancer.
Being exposed to certain chemicals: Some chemicals such as chemicals used in dyes, leather, paint, rubber, hairdressing supplies, and certain textiles also increase the risk of getting bladder cancer.
Regular infections in the bladder: If you notice that you get infections regularly in your bladder then it can be a sign of bladder cancer.
What are the Risk Factors of Bladder Cancer?
Some risk factors of bladder cancer may include:
- Cigarette smoke along with other forms of smoke increases the risk
- As people age, the chances of developing bladder cancer increase after crossing the age of 55 but people of any age can develop this type of cancer.
- Males are more prone to bladder cancer than females
- Any earlier cancer treatment may also increase the risk of developing bladder cancer
- Chronic bladder inflammation
- If you have a family history of cancer, especially a parent, sibling, or a child then you have an increased risk of developing bladder cancer
What are the Complications of Bladder Cancer?
A few complications of bladder cancer may include:
- Swelling of The ureters getting swelled
- Urethral stricture
- Inconsistency in urinating
- Sexual problems like erectile dysfunction in men and sexual dysfunction in women
If you have to go through surgery to remove cancer then some normal post-surgery complications such as some internal damage, bleeding or infection may occur which can be treated with medicines. But one of the severe complications of surgery is reproduction as during the surgery like in the case of males the prostate may be removed if cancer spreads into the prostate and in females if the uterus is removed then getting pregnant is not possible.
How Bladder Cancer is Diagnosed?.
Some tests to diagnose bladder cancer are
Urinalysis: A sample of your urine is taken and sent to the lab for examination. This test is done mainly to detect if you have any kind of bladder infection.
Cytology: This test is carried out to check cells using a microscope to detect cancer-inducing cells in the body along with testing any sign of bladder cancer
Cystoscopy: During this test, a tiny, narrow tube known as a cystoscope is inserted into your urethra and through the cystoscope which has a lens, the doctor will be able to see inside your urethra and bladder to detect any signs or symptoms of this type of cancer.
Biopsy: During a biopsy, a doctor takes a cell sample from your body using a small tool and then sent to a lab to examine further to diagnose if you have bladder cancer or not
Imaging Test: CT ( computerized tomography ) urogram is one of the main imaging tests that may be used to diagnose the problem. In CT urogram, a contrast dye is injected in one of the veins that in due course flows into your ureters, bladder, and kidneys. Then images are taken to have a detailed view of your urinary tract which can be helpful to detect cancer.
What are the Treatment Options Available for Bladder Cancer?
If diagnosed early, it’s to treat and cure bladder cancer without going through surgery but if the cancer is diagnosed late and in some cases, surgery is needed to remove cancer from the body. The treatment options available for bladder cancer are:
Chemotherapy in the bladder (intravesical chemotherapy): It is used to treat cancers that are restricted to the bladder lining, some medicines are given during this treatment
Chemotherapy for the whole body (systemic chemotherapy): This method is used to augment the possibility to cure a bladder cancer patient without going through surgery to get rid of cancer from the bladder.
Radiation therapy: In this treatment procedure, high beams of radiation are used to kill the cancer cells, and its performed mostly when surgery isn’t an option or isn’t desired
Immunotherapy: Here the immune system is made stronger through medicines and some other procedures to increase the immune system’s capability to combat the cancer cells, either in the bladder or all over the body
When none of the above-mentioned treatment options works, then surgery has to be done.
There are various surgery options available based on the stage and stage of cancer. One of them is TURBT where high-energy electricity is used to burn cancer cells. Radical cystectomy is another option where the bladder and the surrounding areas are removed because of the spread of cancer. During DMAB, in men the prostates and seminal vesicles are removed through surgery. In women, ovaries, uterus, and part of their vagina may be removed. In some cases, surgery is done along with chemotherapy or radiation therapy to remove any cancer cells surgery might have missed.
Living with Bladder Cancer
Getting diagnosed with bladder cancer can be overwhelming and stressful along with being frightful. But you should know that treatments are available especially if it’s diagnosed in the early stages which augments the chances of getting cured. Coping with the emotional effect that comes with any kind of cancer is not simple but you can take steps to cope with the situation by getting information about the extent of your cancer you have and the treatment options that are available. You can join a support group with people with the same problem or people who went through it and came out as a winner. Share your feelings with close friends and family as it will make you feel strong and help you to deal with them more efficiently.
Whom to Consult?
If you see that you discharge discolored urine that sometimes contains blood, then immediately meet your doctor who after checking he may refer you to a cancer specialist if your doctor notices symptoms of bladder cancer to get it checked properly. Apart from this if you experience symptoms of bladder cancer or any kind of bladder infection then make an appointment with a specialist doctor in this field.