Bladder cancer is a form of cancer that develops within the epithelial cells, or the lining of the bladder. The bladder is a muscular organ that stores urine prior to excretion. There are other types of bladder cancer, including lymphoma and sarcoma, but they are very rare. Most bladder cancers occur in older adults and are diagnosed at an early stage. When caught early, bladder cancer is easily treatable. However, it has a high recurrence rate. Follow-up medical visits are crucial for patients with a history of bladder cancer.
Diagnostic Process and Complications
Patients complaining of symptoms similar to bladder cancer can easily be misdiagnosed with prostate infections, cystitis, or other non-cancerous disease. It is important for the doctor to run multiple tests when diagnosing the patient. A cystoscopy is typically the first examination. It involves the insertion of a tube into the urethra to locate and biopsy any suspicious lesions. Urine cytology is another test that may be performed with any voided urine after the cystoscopy. However, if the results of urine cytology are negative for bladder cancer, they can be highly inconclusive. Imaging methods, such as CT scans and X-rays, have also been used.
Bladder cancer is commonly mistaken for:
- Overactive bladder
- Bladder stones
- Cystitis, or inflammation of the bladder
- Bladder infections, or urinary tract infection
- Pyelonephritis, or kidney infections
- Benign prostatic hyperplasia, or enlargement of the prostate gland
- Bladder papilloma and other benign bladder tumors
- Kidney cancer
- Prostate cancer
- Renal cell carcinoma
Risks and Prevention of Bladder Cancer
It can be difficult to determine one specific cause for bladder cancer. Parasites, smoke carcinogens, infections, certain chemicals, and dehydration have all been linked to types of bladder cancer. Avoiding external risk factors, such as smoke or chemicals, is an important part of bladder cancer prevention. Hormone replacement therapy has been linked to a lower risk of bladder cancer. A diet high in fruits and vegetables may deter cancer from developing. Raw broccoli was found to be especially helpful. Another study of 48,000 men indicated the importance of drinking enough water, at least 6.5 cups per day, in the prevention of bladder cancer.
Factors that increase risk of bladder cancer include:
Being white or male
Bladder cancers frequently occur in males and people of white race.
Over the age of 40
While bladder cancer may develop at any age, it is more likely to develop in adults.
It is suspected that carcinogens found in tobacco smoke come into contact with the epithelial cells of the bladder during excretion. They cause abnormal growth within the lining of the bladder.
Family history of bladder cancer
Family history is an important factor for any type of cancer. Cancers that are common within a family are more likely to develop in its immediate family members.
Personal history of cancer
Bladder cancer has a high recurrence rate. Patients with a history of this cancer should be tested regularly.
Previous cancer treatment
Cyclophosphamide, or Cytoxan, are drugs used during certain cancer therapies that may also cause bladder cancer. Any radiation focused on the pelvis will also increase patient risk.
Pioglitazone is a drug contained in many diabetes medications, such as Actos, Actoplus Met, and Duetact. This drug has been linked totypes of bladder cancer.
The kidneys act as a filtration system for the body and are closely linked with the bladder. When the body filters certain chemicals, trace amounts will likely come into contact with the bladder lining. Hazardous chemicals are used to make arsenic, paints, textile materials, textile dyes, hair dyes, rubber, and leather. Long-term exposure to disinfection by-products (DBP) in drinking water has also been provenas an increased risk for bladder cancer.
Symptoms of Bladder Cancer
Bladder cancer can be hard to diagnose, due to the vague symptoms involving:
- Painful urination
- Polyuria, or frequent urination
- Feeling a need to urinate, without any urine excretion
- Back pain
- Pelvic pain
- Blood in urine, which may or may not be visible without lab tests