by Kimberly Allen, RN
Over 72,500 new cases of bladder cancer are expected to be diagnosed in the US this year. It is also expected that there will be over 15,200 deaths due to bladder cancer in the US this year. Although bladder cancer can develop at any age it is almost always diagnosed in people 40 years of age or older. Bladder cancer is more common in men than women as well as being more common in Caucasians than other races.
The exact cause of bladder cancer is unclear, however, researchers have identified several potential causes. Smoking is considered the “single greatest risk factor for bladder cancer”. People that smoke whether it’s cigarettes, a pipe or cigars are twice as likely to develop bladder cancer than non smokers. When a person smokes the chemicals in the smoke are processed in their body and excreted in the urine. As these harmful chemicals accumulate in the urine they can damage the lining of the bladder. There are also certain chemicals and industries that can also increase your risk of developing bladder cancer. Some of the industries that have been associated with bladder cancer include leather processing, textiles and rubber as well as hair coloring, paints and printing. There are also certain organic chemicals known as aromatic amines that are used in the dye industry have been linked to cancer. Many experts believe that people that consume large portions of animal fats and fried meats also have an increased risk of bladder cancer.People that have used the Chinese herb Aristolochia fangchi for weight loss have higher rates of kidney failure as well as bladder cancer than the rest of the population. Certain medications like the chemotherapy drug Cytoxan and more recently the diabetes medication Actos have been linked to bladder cancer. People that suffer from repeated urinary tract infections or inflammation of the bladder, known as cystitis can increase your risk of developing a certain type of bladder cancer.
There are 3 types of bladder cancer. The type of bladder cancer you have is determined by the type of cell where the cancer begins. Transitional cell carcinoma also called Urothelial caner is the most common type of bladder cancer diagnosed in the US. Transitional cells are the cells that line the inside of your bladder. They expand as your bladder fills then contract when you empty your bladder. Squamous cell bladder cancer is fairly rare in the US. Squamous cells form in your bladder as a result of irritation and infection. The third type of bladder cancer is adenocarcinoma of the bladder. This type develops in the cells that form the mucous secreting glands in your bladder and is also rare in the US.
The most common symptom of bladder cancer is blood and/or blood clots in your urine which is also called hematuria. Some will also experience pain with urination as well as other symptoms of urinary tract infection like urinating frequently in small amounts. As the bladder cancer advances you’ll have pain in your lower back near the kidneys and swelling in your legs. You may also notice a mass in your pelvic area near the bladder. Should your bladder cancer spread you’ll experience weight loss as well as pain in your bones and pelvic area.
Treatment for bladder cancer is dependent on several factors including what type of cancer you have and the stage it is in as well as your age and over all health. Other things that will be considered include whether or not you have already been treated for your cancer previously as well as your own personal preference. The most commonly used treatments include chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery either alone or in combination. Other treatments that are being used include biological or immunotherapy. These types of treatments uses your body’s natural cancer fighting ability to over power the cancer cells.
As with all cancers the earlier it is diagnosed and treatment initiated the more effective the treatment. For those whose cancer is diagnosed very early, before it gets to stage 1 the 5 year survival rate is 98%. The survival percentage goes down for each stage your cancer is in when treatment is initiated. For example, if your cancer is in stage 1 when treatment is initiated the 5 year survival rate is 88%, that drops to 15% if your cancer is in stage IV when treatment is started.
There may not be a guaranteed way to prevent bladder cancer however, there are things you can do to reduce your risk including quitting smoking if you’re a smoker. Eat a diet with more fruits and vegetables and less animal fat including fried foods and always drink plenty of water to keep your urine diluted. Also, observe the strict protective protocols in place at your work place. they are there for your protection and prevent most of the exposure that can cause cancer.
Kimberly Allen is a registered nurse with an AND in nursing. She has worked in ACF, LCF and psychiatric facilities, although she spent most of her career as a home health expert. She is now a regular contributor to HealthAndFitnessTalk.com, dispensing advice and knowledge about medical issues and questions. You can reach her with any comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.