Understand the concerns with bladder cancer
Living a cancer-free life is something many of us take for granted. But according to the American Cancer Society, about 69,250 cases of bladder cancer have been diagnosed in 2011, with about 14,990 ending in death. Here are facts about bladder cancer from the National Center for Biotechnology Information:
Bladder cancer, by definition, is the development of tumors, usually in the cells that line the lower body organ that collects and releases urine. Those cells, as with any other cancer, can break free and migrate to other parts of the body. This type of cancer is prevalent in both men and women.
Types of tumors
Bladder cancers are usually papillary, meaning they resemble warts attached to a stalk, or less frequently, nonpapillary. This type of cancer is more challenging to treat.
Factors that contribute to the development of bladder cancer include smoking cigarettes; coming in contact with chemicals as an aluminum worker, dye worker, leather worker, pesticide applicator, rubber worker or truck driver; chemotherapy for other conditions, using the drug cyclophosphamide; radiation treatment, especially in women who have cervical cancer; and chronic bladder infection. Though the results are not yet conclusive, some studies also point to the use of artificial sweeteners as a catalyst for bladder cancer.
While they may be the result of other conditions, including abdominal pain; blood in urine; bone pain; fatigue; urination pain, frequency, urgency or leakage; and weight loss are all indicators that bladder cancer could be present.
In addition to a physical examination that includes rectal and pelvic exams, your doctor may order an abdominal and/or pelvic CT scan, a biopsy, an internal exam using a camera and/or urinalysis. Once bladder cancer is confirmed, further tests will determine whether it has spread to the prostate, rectum, uterus or vagina, and also through the lymph nodes to the bones, liver or lungs. Once all this information has been gathered, the doctor will assign a stage from 0, meaning the tumors are contained in the bladder lining, to IV, which means the disease has spread to the lymph nodes or sites relatively far away from the bladder.
Depending on the stage, the symptoms and other health factors, bladder cancer can be treated with immunotherapy in which a vaccine is used to stimulate the immune system to kill the cancer cells. If that doesn’t work or the cancer is at a more serious stage, the doctor may recommend surgery to remove the tumor or to remove part or the entire bladder. Patients also may be treated with chemotherapy and radiation or a combination thereof.
For those who do not have their bladder removed, there is periodic urinalysis, and bladder exams that will take place every three to six months.
Consulting a highly rated Cincinnati urologist can help you understand your risks and what procedures or tests are right for you.