The bladder is a balloon-shaped organ in the pelvis responsible for storing urine until released by the body. Its muscle fibers allow for stretching and voluntary control of urine output. Bladder conditions occur when the natural physiology is compromised on some level. This month we acknowledge bladder cancer awareness delving into causes, risk factors, and treatment options for cancer control and prevention.

How prevalent is cancer of the bladder, and who’s at risk?

The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates 74,000 new cases of bladder cancer in 2015, that’s an average of 56,320 in men and 17,680 in women. Bladder cancer is more common in older adults with 9 out of 10 diagnosis in people over the age of 55.

Older adults and men are at greater risk, yet bladder cancer can affect people of all ages. Cancer develops from abnormal cell growth in the bladder, resulting in cell mutation. The Mayo Clinic addresses potential factors leading to bladder cancer such as parasitic infections, history of smoking, certain diabetic medications, bladder inflammation, history of family cancer, and radiation.  

There are four main types of cancers that develop in the bladder: Transitional (urothelial) cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma, small cell carcinoma, and sarcoma. The ACS documents transitional cell carcinoma as the most common type of bladder cancer, accounting for 9 out of 10 diagnosis. The ACS elaborates on transitional cell carcinoma stating, “In fact, patients with bladder cancer sometimes have other tumors in the lining of the kidneys, ureters, or urethra. If someone has a cancer in one part of their urinary system, the entire urinary tract needs to be checked for tumors.” Squamous cell carcinomas only account for 1% - 2% of bladder cancers. In the like, adenocarcinoma, small cell carcinoma, and sarcoma are also rare forms of bladder cancer.

Common Signs and Symptoms of Bladder Cancer:

1. Hematuria or blood in the urine can result. The appearance of urine can be dark yellow, bright red, or normal in color. A laboratory urine analysis may be ordered by the physician to determine presence of blood. It’s important for females to inform the practitioner if menstruating to prevent false-positive results. 

2. Polyuria or frequent urination.

3. Dysuria or painful urination.

4. Back or flank pain.

Is Bladder Cancer Curable?

The Mayo Clinic comments on cancer relapse stating, “Bladder cancer often recurs. Because of this, bladder cancer survivors often undergo follow-up testing for years after successful treatment. What tests you'll undergo and how often will depend on your type of bladder cancer and your treatment, among other factors.” There are various treatments and drug options for clients with bladder cancer. Surgical treatments include tumor removal, and/or partial or complete removal of the bladder. Other treatment options include immunotherapy, chemotherapy, and radiation. Clients at risk or with a history of bladder cancer should be meticulous with scheduled exams, procedures, and doctor appointments. Inquire about available resources in your area for coping and support with your nurse or healthcare provider. Also, relay any concerns or changes in health status to your physician in promptly manner. Early detection and intervention is key for cancer control and prevention.

* All information shared in this article should be discussed with your healthcare practitioner prior to incorporating any suggestions. This article is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide advice or direct client decisions.