Bladder cancer is a type of cancer that occurs in the tissues of the bladder (the organ in the human body that holds urine). The cancer normally begins in the cells that line the inside of a person’s bladder. The cells are called urothelial and are also found in the kidneys and the ureters (tubes that connect the kidneys to the bladder).
Types of Bladder Cancer
- Transitional cell carcinoma: This is the most common type of bladder cancer which often begins in the transitional cells in the inside layer of the bladder. These cells change shape without being damaged in the event the tissue stretch.
- Squamous cell carcinoma: This is a rare type of bladder cancer that occurs after the formation of glandular cells in the bladder following long-term bladder irritation and inflammation.
Symptoms of Bladder Cancer
- Urinary incontinence
- Blood in the urine
- Urgent urge to urinate
- Frequent urination
- Abdominal pain
- Pain in the lower back
- Painful urination
Causes and Risk Factors of Bladder Cancer
There is no known cause for bladder cancer. However, doctors know that it forms when abnormal cells grow and multiply rapidly and uncontrollably and invade other body tissues. However, there are certain factors that may increase the risk of an individual developing cancer of the bladder. These include:
- Being male
- Being Caucasian
- Consumption of a high-fat diet
- Having a family history of bladder cancer
- Low fluid consumption
- Chronic bladder infections
- Previous chemotherapy with a drug known as Cytoxan
- Previous radiation therapy that was targeted to treat the pelvic area
Diagnosis of Bladder Cancer
To make a definitive diagnosis, the doctor may use one or more of the following methods to diagnose bladder cancer:
- A urinalysis
- A cystoscopy: The doctor inserts a narrow tube with a small camera at its tip through which, he/she will see the inside of the patient’s bladder.
- Internal physical examination: During the procedure, the doctor inserts a gloved finger into the patient’s rectum or reproductive organ (for females) to feel for lumps that may be a sign of cancerous growth.
- Biopsy involves taking a small sample of tissue from the patient’s bladder and sending it to the laboratory to be analyzed under a microscope.
- A CT scan
- An intravenous pyelogram (IVP)
Treatment for Bladder Cancer
The suitable treatment option for bladder cancer is determined by the type and stage of the patient’s cancer, the symptoms, and overall health of the patient.
Treatment for stage 0 and stage 1
Treatment at these stages may include surgery tailored to remove the tumor from the bladder. Chemotherapy or immunotherapy may also be used. The two treatment options involve using medication that will trigger the patient’s immune system to attack the cancer cells.
Treatment for stage 2 and stage 3
The treatment may include:
- A combination of surgery to remove part of the bladder and chemotherapy
- Surgery to remove the entire bladder (radical cystectomy)
- Chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or immunotherapy may also be used to shrink the tumor before surgery (when surgery is not an option) and to prevent cancer recurrence.
Treatment for stage 4 bladder cancer
Treatment for this stage may include:
- The removal of the entire bladder and surrounding lymph nodes. This will be followed by surgery to create a new passage for urine to exit the body.
- Chemotherapy to relieve discomfort
- Combination of chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and immunotherapy following surgery, purposely to kill the remaining cancer cells.
- Clinical trials