Bladder cancer is a surprisingly common cancer that affects as many as 68,000 individuals in the United States each year. Men develop this type of cancer more often than women, but anyone can be affected by it. Bladder cancer is most prevalent in the older population, but it can occur at any age. Knowing the signs of bladder cancer can help you detect it at an early stage, when it is most treatable. A number of different types of bladder cancer can occur, which influence the type of treatment that will be administered. Different treatment methods are often used in combination to provide the best outcomes for patients. Read on to learn more.
Most frequently, bladder cancer exhibits as a disorder in the urinary system. Individuals may experience pain during urination, find blood in their urine or urinate more frequently than usual. They may also experience pelvic pain, back pain or incontinence. Some patients experience a feeling of obstruction when trying to urinate, as if they cannot empty the bladder completely or as if their urine flow is weaker than normal. Once the cancer has spread, it can cause fatigue, weight loss and pain or dysfunction in other organs of the body.
Like all cancers, bladder cancer develops when cells begin to mutate abnormally. Many different factors can cause cells to begin to mutate. Smoking cigarettes and other tobacco products can cause these mutations to occur. Exposure to chemicals, such as in some types of jobs, can also trigger cell mutations. Radiation exposure is another cause of bladder cancer. Chronic infection of the bladder can lead to cell mutations. If you have traveled to another country and picked up a parasitic infection, it can begin the process of cell mutation and cancer. Research indicates that a family history of bladder cancer can pre-dispose you to developing it.
Chemotherapy drugs may be infused directly into the bladder to eliminate cancer cells in the lining of the bladder that may be likely to recur. This type of treatment can be highly effective for eliminating tumors in the early stages. Whole-body chemotherapy may also be used. In this therapy, the drugs are delivered through an IV and can attack cancer cells that have migrated to other parts of the body. Chemotherapy can have a number of side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, hair loss and increased risk of infection
Radiation therapy and immunotherapy can also be effective in treating bladder cancer. Radiation, a form of focused, intensified light, may be used to eliminate cancer in the early stages or to treat remaining symptoms after other forms of treatment. These treatments are painless, but may have side effects, such as nausea, skin changes and fatigue. Immunotherapy is a type of treatment that uses certain types of drugs that stimulate the immune system to kill abnormal cells. This treatment may be used when the patient cannot tolerate chemotherapy. Side effects include fatigue, urinary tract infections, loss of appetite and diarrhea. Sometimes, more serious effects can occur.
A number of surgical procedures can be done to remove cancer from the bladder. The surgeon may go through the urethra, removing tumors that are found. If the cancer is invasive, the bladder may be removed. Reconstruction of the bladder is then done to allow passage of urine from the body, using tissue from the intestines. Complications include infection, blood clots and difficulty adjusting to the "stoma" on the outside of the body that may be required.
Bladder cancer is a treatable disease that can be managed with proper medical attention. As in all cancers, early treatment can make a significant difference in how the disease affects your life. If you notice any of the symptoms of bladder cancer, talk to your doctor about options for treatment.