Bladder Cancer: Symptoms, Causes, Medicines & Treatments
Commonly asked questions about bladder cancer:
- What is bladder cancer?
- Bladder cancer risk factors
- Bladder cancer causes
- Bladder cancer symptoms
- Bladder cancer treatments
- How to Prevent Cancer
- What Drugs are Used to Treat Bladder Cancer?
What Is Bladder Cancer?
Bladder cancer is a form of cancer that begins developing in an individuals bladder. The bladder, a hollow organ in the lower abdomen, is the organ responsible for the storing of urine until it is able to pass through the body.
The cancer often begins developing in the cells that line the interior of the bladder and occurs most commonly in older adults. When detected at an early stage, bladder cancer is highly treatable. However, it is one of the most recurring cancers and can require follow-up testing for the foreseeable future even if the initial cancer was eradicated.
There are three different forms of bladder cancer that depend on the initial location of the cancer development. The most common of these forms is transitional cell carcinoma which begins in the bladders urothelial cells. These are cells that chance shape and stretch when the bladder is full.
Other forms of bladder cancer are squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma which begin in flat cells lining the bladder and the cells that make and release fluids, respectively.
With almost 77,000 cases of bladder cancer diagnosed in the United States each year, the American Cancer Society reports that it constitutes 5% of all new cancer cases and is the fourth most common cancer found in men.
The society also reports that almost 90% of all bladder cancer cases are found in those over the age 55 with the average diagnosed age being 73.
Bladder Cancer Risk Factors
Who Is At Risk Of Developing Bladder Cancer?
Similar to other forms of cancer, there are several life aspects that factor into an individuals risk of developing bladder cancer. Some of these factors can be controlled by an individual by pursuing certain lifestyles while others are naturally occurring and are not affected by individual actions.
Although accumulation of risk factors cannot serve as an indication of bladder cancer development, they do serve as an indicator of development likelihood. Multiple risk factors may apply to an individual while they still do not develop bladder cancer.
Some of the most influential and notable risk factors that have been identified by members of the medical community includes:
Smoking tobacco, whether through cigarettes, cigars, or pipes, has been found to be associated with an increase in diagnosed bladder cases. This is believed to be related to a buildup of chemicals in smokers urine that may damage the lining of the bladder which can lay the foundation for bladder cancer.
Most cases of bladder cancer occur in those above the age of 55 by an exceptionally large margin. Although younger individuals are not immune to bladder cancer, the disease is very rare in those below the age of 40.
Because the bladder is responsible for disposing some chemicals from the body after being filtered by the kidneys, increased exposure to chemicals may damage the lining of the bladder. As chemicals, including arsenic and chemicals present in the rubber, leather, textile, and paint industry, cycle through the body, medical reports indicate that an individuals risk of bladder cancer may steadily rise.
Race & Gender
Regarding race and gender, white individuals report bladder cancer far more common than individuals of any other race. This is also true for men, as they are nearly three times more likely to develop bladder cancer as women.
Those with bladder cancer in their personal or family history of far more likely to experience it than those without a history. When family members have a history of bladder cancer, an individual may have inherited genetics that make them more susceptible to bladder cancer although strictly the genetic form is rare.
Additionally, those who previously had bladder cancer are at a very high risk of suffering from a recurrence of the disease.
Previous Medical Treatments
Various medical treatments can lead to an increased risk of developing bladder cancer. This includes use of cyclophosphamide to treat a previous instance of bladder cancer. Additionally, those who utilized radiation therapy may also carry a heightened risk of recurring bladder cancer.
Those who take diabetes medication, especially Actos have also reported higher rates of bladder cancer than is standard.
Chronic Bladder Inflammation
Chronic bladder inflammation that may occur when using a long-term urinary catheter may increase the risk of developing bladder cancer.
What Medications Cause Bladder Cancer?
Actos (Pioglitazone) is a drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1999 to treat Type 2 diabetes. However, multiple medical studies have indicated that prolonged use of Actos may increase the risk of bladder cancer.
How Can I Reduce My Risk Of Developing Bladder Cancer?
There is no definitive way to prevent the cause of bladder cancer, however, an individual may pursue various efforts to reduce their risk of the disease.
Some of the steps that can be taken to reduce the risk includes:
Refrain From Smoking
With smoking leading to the bladder being exposed to dangerous chemicals as they cycle through the body, refraining from smoking will allow the bladder to maintain its health and strength. If smoking is halted, the bladder will be able to cycle the chemicals out and begin repairing itself.
Maintain A Well-Balanced Diet
Foods rich in omega-3 and lean protein may reduce the risk of developing bladder cancer. This includes increasing the amount of fruits and vegetables consumed while reducing the amount of fat and red meat consumed.
Appropriate Chemical Handling
Citing risk factors, chemical exposure can lead to bladder deterioration that lays the foundation for the development of bladder cancer. By wearing the proper safety materials and taking precautionary handling measures, an individual can reduce their risk of bladder cancer while maintaining their effectiveness in the workplace.
Maintain Proper Hydration
Proper hydration prevents harmful substances from overwhelming the bladder as water can work to dilute those harmful substances. Hydration will also work to flush dangerous substances out of the bladder faster.
Pursue Early Detection
Survival rates for those who are diagnosed and treated while experiencing early stages of bladder cancer can exceed 80%. By remaining vigilant of the symptoms of bladder cancer, early detection can be achieved.
Bladder Cancer Causes
What Causes Bladder Cancer?
While the definitive cause of bladder cancer remains unknown, the disease has been frequently connected with risk factors including smoking, infection, chemical exposure, and radiation. These factors may directly alter the genetic structure of cells causing them to experience abnormal cell reproduction.
As previously stated, smoking, chemicals, and other damaging substances can directly lead to the genetic alteration of cells that may cause growth. As cells begin to multiply and grow, cells will no longer die as normal leading to the creation of a cancerous tumor.
Bladder Cancer Symptoms
There are several dangerous symptoms of bladder cancer that may become present at various stages of the development cycle.
One of the most notable symptoms of bladder cancer is the occurrence of hematuria – blood in the urine. While typically painless, blood in the urine is the most common symptom.
However, the blood is normally not visible by visual observation and must be observed through a microscope for proper identification. This symptom is most commonly discovered when health care providers are conducting tests on their clients.
Another common bladder cancer symptom is an increase in urination frequency and accompanying pain. This symptom is very blunt in its detectability and should be reported to a medical professional immediately if a diagnoses and treatment regiment for a urinary tract infection has not begun.
Other symptoms that may be associated with bladder cancer in varying stages of development may include:
- Pain In Lower Back (Flank Pain)
- Lower Leg Swelling
- Growth Of Pelvic Mass
- Weight Loss
- Bone Pain
- Rectal, Anal, Or Pelvic Pain
Bladder Cancer Treatments
How Can Bladder Cancer Be Treated?
Bladder cancer treatment depends on the stage and location of the disease and can encompass a multitude of different tactics. The most effective way to treat the disease is to diagnose the disease early in development.
Early Stage Bladder Cancer
Surgery To Remove Tumor
When diagnosed early on, bladder cancer can be removed through transurethral resection of bladder tumor which removes only the tumor. This method involves inserting a small wire loop into the bladder to kill cancer cells using an electric current run through the wire.
While the method may cause painful and bloody urination immediately after the procedure, it is very effective at eliminating the cancer risk.
Surgery To Remove Tumor And Portion Of Bladder
This surgery is referred to as a partial cystectomy as it involves the removal of the portion of the bladder infected with the cancer. This method is rarely pursued as it is only used when the cancer has infected a single area of the bladder that can be removed without disrupting the effectiveness of the organ.
Biological Therapy (Immunotherapy)
Biological therapy works by triggering an individuals immune system to begin fighting cancer cells. The therapy is administered through urethra, utilizing the bodies own resources to defend itself.
Invasive Bladder Cancer
Surgery To Remove Bladder
Removal of the entire bladder, known as a radical cystectomy, involves not only bladder removal but lymph node removal as well. When performed on women, the surgery may also include the removal of the uterus, ovaries, and portions of the vagina. In men the surgery also involves removing the prostate and seminal vesicles.
Technology has advanced to a degree that allows the performing surgeon to use robotic arms to be more precise in action. Regardless of how performed, the surgery may cause infection or bleeding and erectile dysfunction in men.
This surgery is only used when the bladder cancer has undergone a possibly fatal development.
Surgery To Create New Urinary Disposal System
After the entire bladder is removed, the surgeon will need to create a new way for the body to dispose of urine. This procedure may take form in any of the following:
- Tube Created From Intestine Through Body Into External Pouch
- Reservoir Created From Intestine Drained By Catheter
- Reservoir Created From Intestine Functioning Normally
Perhaps the most well known method to treat any form of cancer, chemotherapy uses drugs to identify and eradicate cancer cells. For bladder cancer, the therapy utilizes two different drugs administered through injection into a vein or through the urethra.
The method is used post-surgery or when a tumor needs to be reduced in size leading up to surgery.
Radiation is another extremely popular cancer treatment option. This technique uses high-energy beams aimed at the cancer to destroy all remnants of the disease.
Like chemotherapy, radiation can be used post-surgery to ensure that all cancer cells have been eliminated.
How to Prevent Cancer
Cancer prevention can vary based on different research, and opinionated studies or news reports. However, these simple lifestyle changes can make a difference in the prevention of developing or forming cancer.
- Eat healthy
- Limit or stop your use of tobacco
- Have a balanced lifestyle
- Avoid risky behavior
- Visit your doctor
- Protect your skin from the sun
What Drugs are Used to Treat Bladder Cancer?
The following drugs and medications are in some way related to, or used in the treatment of bladder cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute:
- Doxorubicin Hydrochloride