The term cancer means an uncontrolled growth of cells in the body. When cancer begins in the urinary bladder, it is called bladder cancer. The urinary bladder, often simply called the bladder, is a balloon-like organ present in the lower abdomen near the pelvis. Its function is to store urine coming from the kidneys through the ureters (pipe-like passageways for urine) until it is expelled from the body through the tube-like passage called the urethra. Bladder cancer affects around 57,000 men and 18,000 women each year in the United States. Depending upon the types of cells producing cancer, bladder cancer may be of several types. Transitional cell carcinoma, also called urothelial carcinoma, is the commonest type of bladder cancer. It starts in the innermost lining of the bladder, also called the transitional epithelium or urothelium. Advanced bladder cancer involves various layers of the bladder wall and may spread to nearby or distant structures such as the lymph nodes, lungs, liver and bones.
What are the 5 warning signs of bladder cancer?
Most people get blood in urine (also called hematuria) as the first sign of bladder cancer. Finding blood in the urine may be alarming for the person and prompt them to seek early medical attention. Five major warning signs of bladder cancer are described below:
- Hematuria (blood in urine) is the most common symptom of bladder cancer. Finding blood in urine (apart from menstrual blood) often alarms the person and makes them seek medical attention. Bleeding may cause the urine to turn red, pink, or orange. There may be a few specks of blood in urine in some people, whereas in some people, blood in normal-appearing urine may be detected on lab examination.
- Needing to urinate more often
- Pain while passing urine
- Back pain
- Pelvic pain
Besides these five warning symptoms, there may be other symptoms such as
- Feeling of incomplete bowel emptying even after urination
- Thin urine stream
- Burning during urination
- Difficulty passing urine
These symptoms may be caused by other benign (noncancerous) conditions such as urinary tract infections (UTIs) or stones (calculi) in the bladder or kidney. Nonetheless, early diagnosis of bladder cancer provides better recovery. Hence, you must seek the physician’s help early. In advanced stages of bladder cancer, there may be additional symptoms such as unintended weight loss, reduced appetite, fatigue, lethargy and even inability to urinate. In advanced stages, cancer spreads to other parts of the body causing symptoms related to the site involved such as bone pain, difficulty breathing, nausea or vomiting.
Can you prevent bladder cancer?
There is no certain way of preventing bladder cancer. You may, however, reduce your risk of bladder cancer by following these tips:
- Avoid smoking including secondhand or passive smoke coming from other people’s cigarettes, cigars or pipes.
- Avoid exposure to certain chemicals particularly the ones used in dye, paint, rubber, leather, heavy metal or petroleum products manufacturing.
- Avoid exposure to diesel fumes.
- Drink plenty of nonsugary, nonalcoholic fluids. Drinking enough water helps flush out wastes from the body, thus, lowering your risk of cancer.
- Consume healthy foods particularly fruits and vegetables.
Can bladder cancer be cured?
Bladder cancer can be cured when detected and treated early. Thus, it is important to recognize early signs and seek urgent medical attention. Several treatment options are available for bladder cancer depending on factors such as the type of bladder cancer, its stage and your overall health and treatment preferences. Sometimes, a combination of treatment options may be used. The treatment of bladder cancer includes
Each treatment option includes several modifications chosen to suit the person’s needs and preferences. Several new treatment options are being explored through clinical trials. The affected person may enroll in any of these trials to avail the benefits of newer treatment strategies.
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