The symptoms of bladder cancer can be similar to the symptoms of certain other health conditions, like bladder infections, bladder stones, kidney stones, and infections of the urinary tract. Let’s find out more about the causes, symptoms, and the treatment of this cancer, through this HealthHearty article.
The bladder is a balloon-shaped, hollow organ located in the pelvic region of the body. It stores urine generated by the kidneys until it is expelled from the body. The bladder wall consists of two types of cells – transitional cells and squamous cells. A cancerous or malignant tumor usually develops in the cells lining the wall of the bladder, i.e., in the transitional cells. This type of bladder cancer is known as transitional cell carcinoma.
If cancer develops in the squamous cells, it is called squamous cell carcinoma. On the other hand, adenocarcinomas begin in the cells that form the mucus-secreting glands of the bladder. The transitional cell carcinoma is the most prevalent form of bladder cancer. This cancer is also classified as superficial and invasive cancer. When the cancer affects the cells lining the bladder, it is known as superficial cancer, while the cancer that spreads to the muscle layer of the bladder wall is termed as invasive cancer. Bladder cancer can produce several symptoms, which are discussed below, along with its causes.
Causes and Risk Factors
The exact causes of this cancer are not known with certainty, though a number of factors have been found to be associated with this condition. The risk of developing this cancer increases with age, and it has been found to be more prevalent among men than women. Again, this cancer has been observed to be more common in white men, as compared to African-American, Asian, and Hispanic men.
Apart from these, the use of tobacco or smoking is one of the most important risk factors for this cancer. Another important risk factor is the exposure to chemicals like arsenic, as well as chemicals used in manufacturing rubber, dyes, leather, paints, and textiles. A family history of bladder cancer, parasitic infections, and previous cancer treatment with drugs like cyclophosphamide can also raise the risk of developing bladder cancer.
Bladder Cancer Signs and Symptoms
In women, the cancer can spread to the nearby organs like the uterus and the vagina, which can produce some additional symptoms. In men, the cancer can spread to the prostate gland. The cancer can also invade the wall of the abdomen in both men and women. The most commonly observed symptoms of this condition are:
- Blood in urine or hematuria
- Frequent urge to urinate (due to the inflammation and irritation caused by the growth of the cancerous cells)
- Painful urination or a burning sensation while passing urine
- Pain in the abdomen and in the lower back area (could be a sign of cancer spreading to the kidneys)
The aforementioned symptoms can however, be associated with conditions other than bladder cancer as well. For example, urinary tract infections, bladder infections, and the formation of bladder and kidney stones can produce symptoms that can be quite similar to the symptoms of this cancer. If the cancer is in the advanced stage, then one can observe some additional symptoms, along with those mentioned above. These symptoms are:
- Loss of appetite
- Unexplained weight loss
- Pain in the rectal, anal, and the pelvic area, and bone pain
Diagnosis and Treatment
This condition is diagnosed by evaluating the patient’s medical history and the symptoms, along with physical examination, urine tests, X-rays, CT scan, MRI, cystoscopy, and if required, biopsy. Like other types of cancer, it can be treated with the help of chemotherapy, radiation therapy, surgery, and biological therapy.
There are mainly three types of surgeries that are employed for treating this condition, which are known as cystectomy, transurethral resection, and urinary diversion. Chemotherapy involves the administration of drugs to kill the cancerous cells, while radiation therapy uses high energy beams for this purpose. Biological therapy, also known as immunotherapy on the other hand, works by stimulating and directing the immune system to fight the cancerous cells and check their growth.
Bladder cancer is usually identified in the early stage, which makes it possible to treat the condition effectively. However, the main problem is that this cancer can recur. So, it is important to undergo follow-up testing or screenings even after the successful treatment of this condition. To ensure prompt treatment, it is important to consult a physician at the earliest on observing the symptoms of this condition. Lastly, the risk of bladder cancer can be reduced to a great extent by quitting smoking, reducing the exposure to chemicals, drinking plenty of water throughout the day, and following a healthy and balanced diet.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be replaced for the advice of a medical professional.