Everything You Need to Know About Bladder Cancer
What is Bladder Cancer?
Bladder cancer is the most common cancer affecting men. It begins in the cells that line the bladder.
The bladder is a hollow organ in the lower abdomen, below the kidneys. The kidneys drain the urine, which gets collected in the bladder. The bladder has flexible walls that stretch when the bladder fills with urine and contract when the bladder is empty.
The bladder is lined with the urothelium tissue that contains the urothelium cells. Bladder cancer happens when these cells grow out of control, multiply, and cause tumours in the bladder. If left untreated, bladder cancer can spread to other organs, such as kidneys and ureters. Bladder cancer is highly treatable if detected early.
Types of Bladder Cancer
There are three types of bladder cancer, depending upon the cells where cancer begins. The doctors decide the line of treatment based on the types of bladder cancer.
The following are the types of bladder cancer:
Squamous Cell Carcinoma:
Urothelial carcinoma is a common type of bladder cancer. It happens in the urothelial cells that line the bladder. As these cells line the inside of the urethra and the ureters, Urothelial carcinoma can occur in these organs, too.
Chronic infection or long-term use of the catheter can irritate the bladder. This can lead to Squamous Cell Carcinoma. This type of cancer is common in places where parasitic infections cause frequent bladder infections.
This is a rare type of bladder cancer. It occurs in the cells that form the mucus-secreting glands in the bladder.
Causes of Bladder Cancer
Bladder cancer is caused due to the rapid multiplying of abnormal cells in the bladder. These abnormal cells form tumours and destroy healthy body tissue.
Although researchers are not sure about the reason behind the multiplying of abnormal cells in the bladder that cause bladder cancer, here are some risk factors that increase the chances of developing bladder cancer:
Long-term use of catheters:
Chemotherapy and radiation:
Frequent bladder infections, urinary tract infections and bladder stones put people at a higher risk of squamous carcinoma.
Using catheters for a long time puts people at a higher risk of squamous carcinoma.
Cigarette smoking increases the risk of developing bladder cancer
Exposure to chemicals used in paint, dyes, rubber, textiles, and leather may increase the risk of developing bladder cancer in people who work with these chemicals.
Chemotherapy drugs and radiation therapy increase the patient's risk of developing bladder cancer.
People with a family history of bladder cancer are at a higher risk of developing bladder cancer.
Symptoms of Bladder Cancer
Symptoms of Bladder Cancer are:
- Frequent urination
- Painful urination
- Burning or tingling sensation during or after urinating
- Blood in the urine
- Frequent bladder infections
- Back pain
Treatment of Bladder Cancer
Treatment of bladder cancer depends upon the stage of cancer. These are the treatments:
Chemotherapy in the bladder:
This treatment is for bladder cancer that is confined to the lining of the bladder and which may progress to a higher stage
Chemotherapy for the whole body to increase the chances of recovery after surgery or when surgery is not possible
It is conducted to remove the cancer cells
It is a primary treatment option to destroy cancer cells
To prompt the immune system to attack the cancer cells either in the body or the bladder
This is an advanced cancer treatment option when other treatments do not work
Bladder Cancer Stages
Bladder cancer staging means how far the cancer has spread. Doctors prescribe treatment based on the stage.
The stages are:
- Non-muscle invasive bladder cancer, where cancer exists only in the inner layer of cells.
- Invasive or muscle-invasive bladder cancer, where the cancer has taken over the deeper layers of the bladder wall.
- Metastatic bladder cancer, where the cancer has spread from the bladder to other organs.
Bladder Cancer Diagnosis
Tests used for bladder cancer diagnosis are:
A narrow tube is inserted and passed through the urethra to observe the inside of the bladder for signs of cancer.
A tissue sample from the bladder is collected to test for cancer.
A urine sample is observed under a microscope to check for cancer cells
Computed Tomography (CT), urogram, or retrograde pyelogram help the doctor examine the urinary tract.
Additional tests may include:
- CT Scan
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging. (MRI)
- Bone Scan
- Chest X-ray
- Positron Emission Tomography (PET)
Bladder Cancer Surgery
Bladder cancer surgery involves the following:
- Transurethral resection of bladder tumour to diagnose cancer and remove cancer in the inner layers of the bladder
- Cystectomy to remove all or part of the bladder
- Neobladder reconstruction creates a new route for urine to leave the body.
- An ileal conduit or a tube to help drain the kidneys into a pouch that's worn on the abdomen
- Constructing the continent urinary reservoir which is a small pouch created to hold the urine inside the body.
Advanced Bladder Cancer Symptoms
Symptoms of advanced bladder cancer are:
- Pain in the abdomen
- Pain in the bones
- Swollen legs
- Inability to urinate
- Lumps in the abdomen
- Loss of appetite
- Unexplained weight loss
- Low back pain on one side of the body
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What are the five warning signs of bladder cancer?
Five warning signs that you must take seriously are:
- Hematuria, or blood in the urine
- Frequent urination or difficulty in urinating
- Back pain as a result of blockage of urine flow from the kidney to the bladder
- Pain along the back
What is the latest treatment for bladder cancer?
Surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, and targeted therapy are the treatments for bladder cancer. The new treatments being tried are the Antibody-drug Conjugate. It is made of a monoclonal antibody linked to a drug, which binds to some proteins found in cancer cells. The linked drug enters these cells and destroys them without harming other cells.
Who might get bladder cancer?
Men above 50, more than women, are more at risk of bladder cancer. People working with harmful chemicals and paints, those with a family history of bladder cancer, and chronic bladder infections are more prone to bladder cancer.