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Bladder cancer

The bladder is a hollow organ in the pelvis that stores urine before it leaves the body. It is made up of several layers: the lining, connective tissue, muscle, and a fatty outside layer. The most common type of bladder cancer affects the lining of the bladder and other parts of the urinary tract.

Bladder cancer is often described by how far the cancer has invaded into the layers of the bladder.

Non-invasive – Cancer is still in the inner layer of the cells, but has not grown into the deeper layers.

Invasive – Cancer has grown deeper, into the muscle layer. This type is more difficult to treat.

Common causes and risk factors

  • Smoking
  • Workplace exposure to certain industrial chemicals
  • Being a male 55 or older
  • Being Caucasian
  • Frequent bladder irritation and infections
  • Low fluid consumption

Symptoms

These symptoms may also be caused by other, less serious conditions, so it is important to talk to your doctor if you experience any of them:

  • Blood in urine
  • Changes in bladder habits such as discomfort or burning during urination, having to urinate more frequently than normal and feeling an urgency to urinate even when the bladder is empty

Diagnosis

Bladder cancer is usually diagnosed after a person sees their doctor because of troublesome symptoms. A doctor confirms the diagnosis through one or more of the following procedures:

  • Cystoscopy  - a slender tube with a lens or camera on one end, though which the urologist injects water to expand the bladder and allows the bladder lining to be seen
  • Biopsy
  • Lab tests
  • Image tests

Treatment      

Once bladder cancer is diagnosed and its stage or severity is determined, you and your doctor can decide on a treatment plan. The best treatment for you will depend on the stage and type of bladder cancer, as well as your general health, age and personal preferences.

  • Surgery may be required to remove abnormal tissues, part of the bladder or the entire bladder.
  • Intravesical therapy (non-invasive only) involves the doctor inserting the drug directly into the bladder through a catheter.
  • Chemotherapy uses medicines to destroy cancer cells. You may receive it by mouth or through your veins.
  • Radiation therapy uses high-dose X-rays to destroy cancerous cells.

Prevention

Although there is no guaranteed way to prevent bladder cancer, there are a few things you can do that may lower your risk.

  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Do not smoke
  • Limit or avoid exposure to certain chemicals
  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables