Understanding Bladder Cancer
Bladder cancer is relatively common and occurs more frequently in men than in women. In the early stages, cancerous cells tend to form on the internal lining of your bladder, but they can spread to other parts of your urinary tract. Bladder cancer can often be successfully treated when diagnosed early, but like other forms of cancer, it can return, and regular check-ups will be necessary for several years after treatment. Here's an overview of the causes, symptoms and diagnosis and treatment options for bladder cancer:
Causes and Symptoms
It's not always clear why some people develop bladder cancer, but genetics and environmental factors are thought to play a part. Additional risk factors include smoking, some parasitic infections, previous radiation treatment and exposure to industrial chemicals.
Symptoms of bladder cancer include pain or bleeding during urination and urinating more frequently. You may also experience generalised pelvic pain and lower back pain, which may come and go or present as a dull continuous ache.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Your doctor will diagnose bladder cancer by taking details of your symptoms and carrying out a cystoscopy. This procedure involves having a narrow, flexible tube inserted into your urethra. The tube, called a cystoscope, has a tiny camera attached to the end that allows the doctor to examine the lining of your bladder. A biopsy of the lining can also be taken using the cystoscope, and this will be analysed for signs of damage to the cells. You may also be referred for a CT scan, which can help your doctor determine if the cancerous cells have spread to other parts of your urinary tract. Once diagnosed, your doctor will aim to determine how much cell damage has taken place, and an MRI, chest X-ray and bone scan are helpful diagnostic procedures that can be used by your doctor when formulating an effective treatment plan.
Treatment for bladder cancer can include oral or intravenous immunotherapy drugs to stimulate your immune system to fight off the mutated cells. Radiation treatment can also be used to kill off cancer cells, and chemotherapy may be suggested if damage to the lining of the bladder is severe. Partial or complete removal of the bladder may be necessary if cells have developed into tumours, and in this situation, you would require a urostomy, which involves having a urinary stoma created to allow urine to drain from your urinary tract into a bag on the outside of your body.
If you have any of the symptoms associated with bladder cancer or if you want to know more about bladder cancer treatment, schedule an appointment with your GP or urologist as soon as possible to minimise the risk of cancer spreading beyond the bladder.