Signs And Treatments For Bladder Cancer

Any type of cancer is scary, difficult to live with and potentially life threatening if gone undetected and untreated for a prolonged period. However, bladder cancer causes some of the most unpleasant and embarrassing symptoms. Worse still, there are other diseases that share similar symptoms.

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Bladder cancer starts developing in the cells of the bladder, the organ responsible for storing urine. Overall, It is the fourth most common cancer in men, and is more common in senior adults. The signs and symptoms of this type of cancer can vary in each individual depending on several factors, and early detection is crucial for successful treatment. Due to this fact, it is highly recommended to get screened for bladder cancer at least twice a year, especially if you are over the age of 60.

Listed below are some of the most common signs of bladder cancer, along with its associated risk factors and the various treatment options available.

Signs of Bladder Cancer

The signs and symptoms of bladder cancer differ in each patient, depending on the stage and type of cancer. Some of the primary signs to watch out for include:

-Blood in the urine (hematuria): This is a clear – cut symptom of bladder cancer. Blood in the urine can be visible to the naked eye (gross hematuria) or may only be detectable under a microscope (microscopic hematuria).

-Frequent urination: There is an increased urge to urinate, even if the bladder is not full. This can lead to frequent visits to the bathroom both during the day and at night, and can have a significant impact on day to day life.

-Painful urination: Some patients may experience pain or a burning sensation while urinating, and sexual intercourse is exceedingly painful as well.

-Back or pelvic pain: In the more advanced stages of bladder cancer, there may be pain in the lower back or pelvis, as the tumor grows and puts increased pressure on surrounding tissues.

It is important to note and underline that these signs and symptoms can also be caused by other conditions, such as urinary tract infections, kidney stones, internal bleeding caused by injuries, or simply monthly period blood in women. If any of these symptoms persist or are accompanied by other concerning signs however, it is essential to consult a healthcare professional for further evaluation.

Risk Factors

Several risk factors can increase the likelihood of developing bladder cancer. Having a good knowledge of these factors can help identify individuals who may be at higher risk and allow for early detection and preventive measures. Some of these risks are preventable by making good, healthy lifestyle choices, but others are connected with age and genetic inheritance.

Smoking is, without a doubt, one of the biggest culprits regarding bladder cancer and many diseases in general. Studies have shown that cigarette smokers are at a higher risk of developing bladder cancer compared to non-smokers. The harmful chemicals present in tobacco smoke enter the bloodstream and accumulate in the urine, and can cause significant damage to the bladder lining. Another risk factor you need to take into account is the ongoing exposure to certain chemicals, such as those used in the dye industry, rubber manufacturing, and hairdressing.

As previously mentioned, there are factors that cannot be avoided or changed. For instance, bladder cancer is more common in older adults, with the average age of diagnosis being 73 years, and men are approximately three to four times more likely to develop bladder cancer than women. Family history of the disease may also play a role.

Treatment Options

The treatment for bladder cancer depends on the stage of the cancer, the overall health of the patient, and other individual factors. Some of the most effective treatment options for bladder cancer include:

1. Surgery: This is often the primary treatment chosen by doctors and patients. The type of surgery performed depends on the stage and location of the cancer. Transurethral resection of bladder tumor (TURBT) is a surgical procedure used for early-stage bladder cancer, where the tumor is removed through the urethra. In more advanced cases, partial or complete removal of the bladder (cystectomy) may be necessary.

2. Chemotherapy: This method involves drugs to kill cancer cells or prevent them from growing. It can be administered before surgery (neoadjuvant chemotherapy) to shrink the tumor or after surgery (adjuvant chemotherapy) to destroy any remaining cancer cells.

3. Radiation therapy: Employs high-energy X-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells. It can be used as the primary treatment for individuals who are unable to undergo surgery or in combination with surgery or chemotherapy.

4. Immunotherapy: This type of treatment stimulates the body’s immune system to recognize and attack cancer cells. It can be used to treat advanced bladder cancer or in combination with other treatments.

5. Targeted therapy: Uses drugs that specifically target certain molecules or genes involved in the growth and spread of cancer cells. It can be used for advanced bladder cancer that has spread to other parts of the body.

It is important to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the most suitable treatment plan based on individual circumstances, including the stage of the cancer, overall health, and personal preferences.

Suitability of Treatments

The suitability of the aforementioned treatment options depends on various factors, including the stage of the cancer, the overall health of the patient, and individual preferences.

For early-stage bladder cancer, surgery, such as transurethral resection of bladder tumor (TURBT), is often the primary treatment and can be highly effective in removing the tumor.

In cases where the cancer has spread beyond the bladder, a combination of treatments, such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, and targeted therapy, may be recommended. These treatments aim to kill cancer cells, shrink tumors, and improve overall survival rates.

The choice of treatment also depends on the patient’s overall health and ability to tolerate certain therapies.

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