Bladder cancer awareness
Bladder cancer is the fourth most common cause of cancer in men and is more uncommon in women. It is expected to affect about 61,700 men and 19,480 women in America in 20221. In 2022, bladder cancer is expected to prove fatal to around 17,100 people (12,120 men and 4980 in women).
The presence of bladder cancer (when the cells in the urinary bladder grow out of control) may be detected by:
- Presence of blood in the urine. However, this can’t be taken as a sure sign of bladder cancer as sometimes infection, stones in the kidney or bladder or other benign kidney diseases could also be the reason for it.
- Changes in urination pattern. Having to urinate more than usual, pain or burning during urination could also be indications of bladder cancer.2
- Lower back pain on one side, loss of appetite and weight loss, feeling tired or weak, swelling in the feet and bone pain are signs of advanced bladder cancer.
Types of bladder cancer
There are three types of bladder cancer depending on which type of cells become malignant or spread throughout the body:
- Urothelial or Transitional cell carcinoma, in which cancer cells begin in the innermost tissue layer of the bladder. This is the most common (90%) type.
- Squamous cell carcinoma, where cancer begins in squamous cells which are thin, flat cells lining the inside of the bladder and forms after a long-term infection or irritation.
- Adenocarcinoma, where the cancer begins in the glandular cells in the lining of the bladder. This form is rarer than other types of bladder cancer.
Causes, diagnosis & treatment
Some common causes of bladder cancer are use of tobacco, smoking, exposure to chemicals, exposure to radiation and recurrent infection in the bladder.
The following tests can help identify the cancer:
- Physical exam and health history – Checking for lumps or something unusual and a history of patient’s health habits, past illness and treatment.
- Internal exam – An examination of the vagina and/or rectum for lumps.
- Urinalysis – This is the test to check the colour of the urine and its contents such as sugar, protein, red blood cells and white blood cells.
- Urine cytology – a sample of urine is tested in the lab for presence of abnormal cells.
- Cystoscopy – Looking inside the bladder and urethra through a cystoscope (a thin tube-like instrument with a light and lens for viewing) for abnormal areas.
- Intravenous Pyelogram (IVP) – A series of X-rays of kidneys, ureters and bladder to check the presence of cancer in organs.
- Biopsy – Removing cells or tissues to check the presence of cancer cells under a microscope.
Bladder cancer can be prevented by avoiding smoking, having more of fruits and vegetables which are rich in antioxidants and having a good amount of fluid to flush out harmful toxins build up in the bladder. Nutrition wise, it is recommended to eat whole grains, lean proteins such as meat, fish, eggs, beans or pulses, milk and cheese apart from starchy carbohydrates such as bread, pasta, rice or potatoes. It is also suggested to avoid soft drinks, caffeine, sugar, total fat and butter.3
Bladder cancer can be treated by surgery, chemotherapy and biological therapy or a combination of it. Newer methods of treatments are also being approved for the treatment of bladder cancer like immunotherapies or antibody-drug-conjugates.
All said and done, if this disease is diagnosed in time, the available treatment options can significantly increase the chances of long-term survival and quality-of-life of patients.