Cancer that occurs in the bladder lining or tissues and muscles surrounding the bladder is called Bladder Cancer.  Men are affected 3 times more than women as per the statistics of National Institutes of Health.

There are 3 types of bladder cancer:

  1. Transitional Cell Carcinoma: Transitional cells are cells that change their shape when the bladder is stretched. (When bladder is filled with urine). These cells get back to their original size once the bladder is emptied. Transitional cells are present in the inner layers of the bladder. Transitional Cell Carcinoma affects these cells.
  2. Squamous Cell Carcinoma: If the bladder is infected for long periods or gets irritated due to various reasons, the squamous cells in the bladder turn cancerous.
  3. Adenocarcinoma: Similar to the squamous cell carcinoma, grandular cells in the bladder turns cancerous due to long term infection or irriatation. This condition is called as Adenocarcinoma. Glandular cells make up the mucus-secreting glands in the body.

Symptoms of bladder cancer

Blood in Urine with no pain while urinating is a common symptom in case of bladder cancer.  As some may know, blood in urine may also indicate other problems such as kidney stones, stones in bladder etc. Fatigue, weight loss and bone tenderness are usually seen in cases with advanced stages of bladder cancer.

  1. Blood in Urine
  2. Urgent Urination
  3. Frequent Urination
  4. Painful Urination
  5. Pain in abdominal area and/or lower back

Causes of bladder cancer

While the exact causes are not known yet, some long term infections and irritations can cause bladder cancer. Cancer is a condition when abnormal cells grow and multiply quickly and get into other tissues of the body.

Risk factors for bladder cancer

  1. People working with cancer causing chemicals (such as labs or factories)
  2. People suffering from chronic (long term) bladder infections
  3. Men are at 3 times higher risk of getting bladder cancer than women
  4. Age is also a factor – people over 55 years of age are at higher risk
  5. Hereditary – If any of your parents or grandparents had bladder cancer, you may have inherit the disease at some point in life.
  6. Consuming diet with high fat
  7. People who have undergone Chemotherapy with specific drugs
  8. People who have undergone radiation therapy in the pelvis region.

Stages of bladder cancer

There are 4 stages of bladder cancer.

Stage 0 – When the cancer is found only on the lining of the bladder

Stage 1 – When the cancer has crossed the lining of the bladder but it has not yet affected the muscles in the bladder.

Stage 2 – When the cancer has spread to the muscles in the bladder but not to the tissues surrounding the bladder.

Stage 3 – Lining of bladder, muscles in the bladder and tissues around the bladder are affected

Stage 4 – Stage 3 + neighbouring areas of the bladder in the body

Stage of Bladder Cancer - Urogynecology Clinic Chennai

Diagnosis of bladder cancer

  1. Urine Analysis
  2. Biopsy – a small piece of tissue will be taken from the bladder to test cancer.
  3. Physical Examination – Doctor may insert his/her finger into your vagina or rectum to feel the lumps in or around the bladder
  4. CT Scan
  5. Cystoscopy – A small camera will be inserted through the urethra to see inside the bladder
  6. IVP – Intravenous Pyelogram. A gel will be sent into the body and an X ray is taken to clearly see the bladder and other parts.

Treatment of Bladder Cancer

Treatment depends on the symptoms and the stage of bladder cancer.

Treating Stage 0 and Stage 1 Bladder cancer

  1. Surgery to remove the tumors
  2. Chemotherapy
  3. Immunotherapy that involves taking medicines that signal the immune system to kill the cancer cells.

Treating Stage 2 and Stage 3 of bladder cancer

  1. Chemotherapy and then removing part of the bladder
  2. Radical Cystectomy – Complete removal of bladder. An alternative will be provided in the body to collect and pass the urine.
  3. If surgery is not an option, Chemotherapy, Radiation therapy or immunotherapy may be opted to shrink the tumors.

Treating stage 4 of bladder cancer

  1. Chemotherapy to relieve symptoms and to extend life of the patient
  2. Radical Cystectomy and removal of surrounding lymph nodes.
  3. Surgery followed by Chemo, radiation and immunotherapy to clear remaining cancer cells and extend life
  4. Usage of drugs that are in clinical trials

Survival chances for patients suffering from bladder cancer

  1. Stage 0 – 98% survival chances
  2. Stage 1 – 88% survival chances
  3. Stage 2 – 63% survival chances
  4. Stage 3 – 46% survival chances
  5. Stage 4 – 15% survival chances.

One should note that these are not hard and fast numbers.  Depending on the treatment, age of the body, how the patient is responding to the treatment will alter the survival chances.

How can one prevent bladder cancer?

As the causes are not known for sure, prevention measures can’t be specific. However, below given factors can reduce the chances of acquiring cancer:

  1. Not Smoking (Quit smoking, if you smoke) – Both active and passive types of smoking
  2. If you work in a chemical laboratory or factory – use all possible precautions. Get out of it even if you develop the earliest symptoms of cancer.
  3. Drinking plenty of water. This helps in cleaning the bladder regularly. Regular cleaning gets rid of bacteria and other microbes from the urine that can infect the bladder.