The human urological system consists of kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra. The bladder is the small, expandable organ where urine is stored until it is expelled from the body during urination. The bladder can develop a number of problems, such as infection, weakness of muscles supporting it, or blockage from stones that sometimes develop. Cancer occurs when the normal replacement of cells become abnormal, leading to intrusion into the tissues of the bladder and surrounding areas. Treatment is then needed to halt the abnormal growth of the cancer. Your urologist can provide accurate diagnosis and a number of treatments for bladder cancer.
Causes of Bladder Cancer
Research indicates that a number of factors can contribute to the development of bladder cancer. It affects more men than women, and generally in people over the age of 40. Genetic factors appear to play a part in its development. Smoking is one of the primary causes of cancers in the bladder. Working around toxic chemicals can also be a cause. Certain diabetes medications can increase the risk for bladder cancer. If you have had radiation or chemotherapy in previous years, you may be at higher risk for bladder cancer. Frequent bladder infections can also predispose you to developing cancer of the bladder.
Symptoms of Bladder Cancer
Common symptoms that may accompany bladder cancer include blood in the urine found during routine testing, pain during urination, or ongoing pelvic pain. Individuals may also experience frequency of urination and back pain. However, because these symptoms can be caused by other issues of the urinary system and kidneys, thorough examination and diagnostic testing is required to determine the cause of the problem.
Treatment for bladder cancer generally depends on the type of cancer and the extent of its intrusion into different layers of tissue. Surgery may be confined to removal of the cancerous tissue and a small portion of the bladder. However, in some cases, the entire bladder must be removed. If the spread of the cancer is significant, a radical cystectomy may be done to remove the bladder, as well as the prostate in men and the uterus and ovaries in women. Chemotherapy is often ordered to eliminate residual cancer cells to prevent re-growth of the abnormal cells. Chemotherapy treatment may be combined with radiation treatment when surgery is not a good option. Immunotherapy, which uses the patient’s own immune system to fight cancer cells, may be recommended for some patients.
Bladder cancer is one of the highly treatable cancers. However, a number of factors can affect the survival rate from this disease. Because early diagnosis is so critical to your ability to recover from bladder cancer, you should see your doctor if you have any unusual symptoms regarding your urinary function.