In this article, you’ll get everything you need to know about Bladder cancer.
Bladder cancer is a disease that mostly affects older people. The average age of people with bladder cancer is 73 years old. In 2019, an estimated 80,470 adults people will have bladder cancer in the US. Besides, 17,670 deaths will be due to bladder cancer. However, men are four times more likely to develop the disease when compared with women. Keep in mind that bladder cancer is the fourth most common type of cancer in men. Finally, white men are two times more likely to develop the disease when compared to black men. The 5-year survival rate of bladder cancer is 77%, meaning that 77 out of 100 people will still be alive 5 years after their diagnosis with bladder cancer.
What are the risk factors for bladder cancer?
Some risk factors increase your chances of developing bladder cancer. Risk factors are not direct causes, but they play a rather important role in the development of the disease. The following are some of the most well-established risk factors for bladder cancer:
- Tobacco smoking
The most potent risk factor for bladder cancer is tobacco smoking, raising your chances to 4 or 7 times higher. Aging. Bladder cancer is more prevalent among older people. The average age of diagnosis with bladder cancer is 73 years old.
Bladder cancer appears four times more frequently in men than in women.
White men are twice as likely to develop bladder cancer than black men.
- Bladder disorders
Infections, schistosomiasis, or other conditions such as stones in the bladder, increase your risk of developing bladder cancer.
- Pioglitazone and cyclophosphamide use
Long-term use of both drugs increases your chances of bladder cancer.
- Exposure to arsenic
Arsenic is a natural substance found in the environment that can predispose you to a variety of cancer types.
- Personal history of bladder cancer
Having bladder cancer in the past increases your chances of developing it again.
- Aromatic amines
These chemicals found in the textile, print, or other industries, increase your risk for bladder cancer.
- Lynch syndrome
Lynch syndrome is an inherited condition that raises your chances of bladder cancer.
Signs and symptoms of bladder cancer
Some people with bladder cancer have no symptomatology at all. Others may present with symptoms that are general and could indicate another condition, except for cancer. Occasionally, bladder cancer appears like blood or blood clots in the urine. The urination might be painful or accompanied by a burning sensation. There might be frequent urination during the day and night. Urgency, the abrupt need to urinate and hesitancy, not being able to pass urine, might be present too. Finally, the patient might report lower back pain on one side of the body.
Most people understand that there’s something wrong after they see blood in their urine, called hematuria. Often, it is rather painless and gross hematuria, meaning the blood is visible with the naked eye. Others report their symptoms after metastasis. Spreading of the tumor to other areas in the body produces correspondent symptoms. For example, bone metastasis could produce bone pain or fracture. Likewise, spreading in the lung could appear as persistent coughing and dyspnea. The treatment of bladder cancer focuses on both treating the disease and relieving the symptoms it produces.
How to diagnose bladder cancer?
If your doctor suspects bladder cancer, you might have to undergo some more specific tests except for physical examination and history. To diagnose bladder cancer, your doctor might need to examine your urine and order a cytology test. This intervention will show whether you have tumor cells in your urine or not. The number one procedure for bladder cancer is cystoscopy. Through cystoscopy, your doctor can see inside your bladder through a tube inserted from the opening of your urethra. According to the results, you might need a biopsy or transurethral resection of bladder tumor (TURBT). URBT will also establish the type of the tumor, its extent, and any other relevant information.
To establish the spread of cancer and help determine its stage, you might need to undergo some imaging tests. These are computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), positron emission tomography (PET), and ultrasound. With the assistance of all those interventions, your physician will describe your cancer through staging and grading. The former refers to the spread of the tumor, whereas the latter expresses the possibility of cancer to recur.
Bladder cancer treatment options
To treat bladder cancer, you have to choose between oral medical treatments and surgery. Chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and targeted therapy are options for oral treatment. You can combine two of them at the same time or combine one with another method. Surgery includes transurethral bladder tumor resection (TURBT), radical cystectomy and lymph node dissection, and urinary diversion. The first involves a tube through your urethra and with which your doctor removes the tumor. The second one is the removal of your whole bladder. Finally, the third one involves the removal of your bladder with the creation of a new pathway to pass urine.
How can you prevent bladder cancer?
To prevent bladder cancer, you need to modify your lifestyle. Quitting smoking is the first step to lower your chances of developing the disease. Besides, avoiding chemicals and drinking plenty of water will also decrease your chances of getting bladder cancer. Keep in mind that early diagnosed bladder cancer is treatable. Therefore, do not hesitate to talk to your doctor if you have a personal history of bladder cancer. In that case, screening might be life-saving.