Bladder cancer is the form of cancer that affects the cells of the bladder in a person. These affected cells continue to grow abnormally and soon form a tumor in the bladder. This is the most common type of bladder cancer known as transitional cell cancer.
The exact cause of bladder cancer is not yet known. Changes or alterations in the DNA of the bladder cells may play a major role. Certain chemicals in the environment (including cigarette smoking) also might play a role. Also, when the lining of the bladder is irritated for a long time, abnormal cell changes that lead to cancer may occur. Some things that cause this are radiation treatment, having catheters in place for a long time, or having the parasite that causes schistosomiasis.
Bladder cancer is twice as likely to develop in smokers, than in nonsmokers. Experts are of the opinion that smoking causes about half of all bladder cancer cases in men and women. Exposure to chemicals and other substances at work-including dyes, paints, leather dust, and others-may also cause bladder cancer.
The commonly seen signs and symptoms of bladder cancer includes blood clots or bleeding in the urine (hematuria), painful urination (dysuria), frequent urination, frequent urinary tract infections (UTI), etc. In case the bladder cancer is more advanced than the symptoms may also include pain the lower back (near the kidney), lower leg swelling, pelvic mass growing near the bladder. Other advanced symptoms of bladder cancer may be weight loss, pain in the bone, anal, rectal or the pelvic region, anemia, etc.
Although the exact cause for bladder cancer is not known the medical fraternity has been able to identify certain risk factors that increase the chances of a person developing bladder cancer. The commonly suspected bladder cancer risk factors are smoking, advancing age, exposure to certain chemicals (aromatic amines), being of the Caucasian (white) race, radiation therapy, certain chemotherapy medicines, nitrate-rich diet (fatty diet) along with other similar factors.
The diagnosis of the suspected bladder cancer cases include a Cystoscopy which allows the doctor to examine the urethra and bladder using a thin and flexible tube attached with a lens and fiber-optic lighting system inserted through the urethra, biopsy might be performed to collect a sample of the tissue of the abnormal mass (tumor) in the bladder for detailed pathological analysis, a urine cytology requires taking a sample of the urine for cancer testing, imaging tests such as x-ray and CT scans allow the doctor to view the urethra, bladder and the kidneys in the better way.
Bladder cancer is categorized into four stages, Stage I - cancer affecting inner bladder lining, Stage II - cancer invades the bladder wall, Stage III - cancer spreads from bladder to surrounding wall of tissue and Stage IV - cancer spreads to the lymph nodes and other organs in the body.
There are several bladder cancer treatment options available today. The type of treatment suitable in the individual case depends on various factors such as the stage and type of bladder cancer, overall health status as well as the patient's preference. Initial-staged bladder cancer can be easily treated using surgical methods. The surgery is also of various types, such as surgery to remove the tumor, surgery to remove apportion of the bladder (partial/segmental cystectomy) and biological therapy (or immunotherapy). In case the bladder cancer is at the latter stages and has invaded the deeper layers of the bladder wall then the doctor might advise surgery to remove the entire bladder (radical cystectomy) or a surgery to create a new pathway for the urine from the body after the radical cystectomy to allow for normal drainage of urine from the body. Chemotherapy is also one of the important treatment methods used for treating late-stage bladder cancers using medicinal drugs to destroy the cancerous cells. Radiation therapy using intense beam of radiation particles is also used at times in combination with chemotherapy to allow for optimum destruction of cancer cells and complete removal of the cancer from the body.
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