The bladder is a muscular organ, shaped like a balloon and located in the center of the lower abdomen (pelvis) that acts as a storage area for urine. The function of the bladder is to discharge urine produced by the kidneys through the urethra.
Bladder cancer is a malignant disease that develops in the cell lining of the bladder. It is described as transitional cell carcinoma which surrounds the inner lining of the bladder wall. The uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells becomes cancerous. Commonly older people are much affected though this disease can strike at any age. The disease can be treated as it can be identified easily at an early stage.
Transitional cell bladder cancer: The development of such transitional cell cancers is seen in the inner lining of the bladder cells. The cells that line the bladder mix up with the waste products in the urine and cause cancer. It is generally described as transitional cell carcinoma.
Other types of carcinomas:
Squamous cell carcinoma– cancer that develops in the flat cells, skin like tissues, lining the organs.
Adenocarcinoma- A rare type of cancer that begins in the cells lining the bladder with some gland cells producing mucus.
Superficial bladder cancer: The cancer develops only in the inner lining of the bladder as seen in transitional cell cancer. They seem to have small growth and can be easily removed. Sometimes this type of cancer is likely to develop even after the treatment.
Invasive bladder cancer: This type of cancer goes beyond the inner line and develops in the muscle layer of the bladder. The treatment for such cancers is more intensive.
In most cases, the symptoms are most likely to be seen with non-cancerous conditions. However, the following symptoms might occur with the bladder cancer:
- Blood in urine
- Frequency in urine
- Pain while urinating
- Abdominal pain
- Loss of weight
- Urinary infection
Bladder cancer often does not show clear symptoms till it advances into incurable state. However the initial symptom is blood in the urine. Even when there is a change in the color of urine, the patient is advised to check with the health-care provider.
The exact causes for bladder cancer are not known. However, cigarette smoking has been identified as the most important reason for its growth. People working in chemical industries like gas and tar industries, iron and aluminum industries and pesticide applicators are at a higher risk. Chronic infections of the bladder continuing for a long time might also cause such cancers. In some cases, family history with the same disease might be one of the risk factors. A diet with fried meat and animal fats can cause bladder cancer. People with bladder stones and urinary tract infections are at the risk of developing a cancer. Radiation therapy and chemotherapy show an increased risk of its development.
An analysis of the urine might show the symptoms of blood in the urine. So the patient would be advised to get the urine tested in the first instance. Urine cytology tests the urine sample for malformed cells causing cancer. Cystoscopy is another diagnostic procedure to examine the bladder system. A biopsy would be taken for the careful examination of the type of cancerous cell. Ultrasound, CT scan or MRI helps in detecting kidney and bladder tumors. Intravenous urogram is a type of X-ray where a dye is injected in the blood to check its movement inside the bladder and urinary system.
A chest X-ray is more effective in diagnosing the cancer spreading itself to the lungs. In some cases bone scanning would be helpful in testing the cancer affecting the bones.
The treatment is usually based upon the type and stage of cancer. The urologist for cancer patients might consider the age and health conditions before the actual treatment is given.
Diagnosis at an early stage could reduce the intensity of the disease. Radiation therapy and Chemotherapy might be needed in some cases. Cystectomy may not be suggested for superficial bladder cancers while it becomes inevitable for muscle invasive tumors. Immunotherapy or biological therapy for patients with severe stages of Ta, T1 and CIS.
Radiation therapy removes cancer cells from the area. Chemotherapy kills cancer cells in any part of the body. In case of early cancer, the tumor may be removed by inserting an instrument through the urethra. For patients who are treated with cystectomy, surgical methods for collection of urine like continent urinary reservoir, neobladder are often suggested.
Spread of cancer to other parts of the body is the most serious complication arising from bladder cancer. Anemia, urinary incontinence and hydronephrosis (blockage of the ureters) are said to be some of the other complications.
The best method to reduce the risk of bladder cancer is to avoid smoking. It is better to avoid working in chemical industries to prevent this disease. Consumption of fluids would help in diluting the cancer-causing materials in the bladder.
Remedies at home might stop the fast spreading cancerous cells though it might not be possible to cure the disease. Citrus fruits like grape fruit or orange juice control the growth of tumor. Spinach and tomato act as anti-cancer agents. Usage of beans, cabbage, sprouted broccoli, cauliflower and carrot in regular diet would reduce the risk of cancer.
In spite of the tests and treatment, cancer patients might be advised for a series of follow-up visits to avoid recurrence of cancer even after the treatment