Bladder cancer begins when abnormal cells form and grow within the bladder which is a hollow shaped organ which holds urine produced by the kidneys. The cancer cells usually form on the wall of the bladder. If the cancer remains within the bladder, it is known as superficial cancer and if it grows and extends beyond the bladder, then it is defined as invasive cancer which is much worse. To help to treat this cancer while it is still in the superficial state means that the patient must pay close attention to bladder cancer symptoms. We’ll learn more about this disease and discuss some important symptoms to be aware of.
The exact cause of bladder cancer is not completely understood. It has been found that the risk of developing bladder cancer does increase with age. It also tends to be more prevalent in men than in women. And it tends to strike more white men than African Americans, Hispanics or Asians. A key risk factor associated with this disease is exposure to certain chemicals like arsenic as well as some other chemicals used in the manufacture of rubber, leather, paints and textiles. In addition those with a close family history for this disease as well as those who were exposed to certain chemotherapy compounds may be at great risk.
In general if the cancer spreads beyond the bladder, it can affect the walls of the abdomen or prostate gland. But some important symptoms to be aware of are the following:
- Blood in the urine
- A frequent urge to urinate
- A burning or painful sensation while urinating
- Pain in the kidneys or the lower back
Many of these symptoms can be associated with a number of non-cancerous conditions. However if you do experience any of these symptoms, you should visit your doctor immediately to have the problem further investigated and diagnosed.
Your doctor will employ physical examination as well as a number of imaging procedures to further investigate and diagnose the possible presence of cancer. These tests can include urine tests, CT scan, MRI, X-rays, etc. If the cancer is diagnosed, there are many kinds of treatment which can be performed. The specific course of treatment will depend a lot on the age and health of the patient, the type of bladder cancer and whether it has spread to other organs.
The treatment can include chemotherapy, radiation therapy or surgery. There are also improvements in therapy which are under development so it may be possible to get involved in clinical trials of new drugs and treatment options.
In any case the goal is to remove all the cancer tissue or cells. This may be accomplished with surgery followed by chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Or if the cancer has spread beyond the bladder, it may not be possible to completely eliminate all the cancers. The goals would therefore be to slow down or stop the progression of cancer and bring the patient the best quality of life for as long as possible.