While bladder cancer is the most common cancer of the urinary tract, there are a number of misconceptions about the risk factors, symptoms and treatments. Here are five of the most commonly asked questions about bladder cancer.
What is bladder cancer?
This is a form of cancer that originates in the bladder, which is an organ located in the pelvic cavity that stores and discharges urine. The most common type is transitional cell carcinoma, or TCC. Bladder Cancer is also known as urothelial carcinoma, which is a condition where cells in the bladder lining begin rapidly overproducing.
What are common symptoms for bladder cancer?
The primary symptom of bladder cancer is blood in the urine, known as hematuria. Hematuria may be visible to the naked eye, but most often is viewed under a microscopic and is usually painless. Other symptoms include frequent urination, pain upon urination (dysuria), or increased urgency. The best thing to do when you are experiencing these symptoms is to seek an appointment with your Urologist, as an early diagnosis can increase the number of treatment options.
Who is at risk for bladder cancer?
Generally speaking, bladder cancer is most likely to occur in individuals aged 50 - 80. Another major risk factor is smoking. Smoking accounts for about 50% of all bladder cancer cases reported every year. When someone smokes, the dangerous chemicals in tobacco are absorbed into the bloodstream. Over time, harmful cancer-causing agents (carcinogens) build up in the urine that is stored in the kidneys, which may lead to the development of bladder cancer.
What are the most common treatment options?
Like any other cancer, early diagnosis increases the number of treatment options available to patients. In terms of strictly non-surgical treatment there is immunotherapy, chemotherapy and radiation. All three work in different ways to attack cancer cells whether through biological therapy, drugs to destroy the cancer cells or high energy rays.
When the cancer has invaded the muscle of the bladder wall, removal of portions of the bladder may be the best step towards a cure. This surgery is known as radical cystectomy, which can take many forms depending on the stage of the cancer and the health of the patient. Often the best care solution is a combination of a non-surgical therapy treatment and surgery.
How can I prevent bladder cancer?
Bladder cancer is common and highly treatable, especially if it is caught in the early stages. The best form of prevention is continual surveillance and regular check-ups with your Urologist.
If you have already had bladder cancer, there is a high rate of recurrence. It is important to continually monitor your condition with your Urologist to lower the chances of relapse. Usually this program includes a urine cytology and cystoscopy, performed every 3 months for 2 years, every 6 months for the next 2 years and then yearly.