By Michael Russell
The bladder is a hollow organ lying within pelvis, which collects urine from the kidneys via tubes called ureters and stores it until it is full enough to empty through the urethra.
Bladder cancer is any type of malignant growth in the bladder. There are two main types – superficial and invasive. The superficial tumours, sometimes known as bladder warts, do not spread and are fairly easily treated. Invasive tumours, which have spread beyond the bladder walls, have a poorer prognosis.
Bladder cancer is more common in men, especially those over the age of sixty years. Cigarette smoking is known to be a major risk factor and accounts for about 60% of all new cases. Other risk factors include exposure to chemicals as used in certain industries. Women who have regularly used permanent hair dyes are at greater risk of developing the condition, as are hairdressers. The exact causes however remain unknown and research continues.
The symptoms of bladder malignancy may include blood in the urine, also known as haematuria, and pain or frequency passing urine. These symptoms, however, are not specific and could well be related to other conditions such as urinary tract infections or kidney stones. If you notice blood in your water it is important that you see your doctor as soon as possible for some diagnostic tests. But please do not panic as the blood may be from an entirely benign source. Haematuria does not always indicate bladder cancer but must be checked out.
To diagnose the problem the doctor will take a full medical history, do a physical examination and send a specimen of urine away for testing. Depending on the results the next step may be a cystoscopy, which is a simple procedure, using a fibre-optic tube with a light source attached to inspect the inside of the bladder. The scope is passed into the bladder via the urethra. If any abnormal areas or growths are noted cells can be taken for further examination to see whether they are cancerous or not.
If cancer is diagnosed the next step is to determine whether it is localised or has spread from it’s original location.
Treatment is by surgery, chemotherapy or radiotherapy. The type of cancer, age and general health of the patient will determine which treatment or combination of treatments is used.
Early diagnosis always improves the outcome. If you experience any of the above symptoms please seek immediate medical help. If you notice blood in your urine report it to your doctor so that it can be investigated and any appropriate treatment started.
If you have been diagnosed as having a bladder cancer you will need to attend for regular check ups so the condition can be monitored.
People who smoke 20 cigarettes a day for 10 years have double the risk of developing bladder cancer compared with non-smokers. If you stop smoking the risk is reduced. If you have been diagnosed with superficial bladder cancer and are a smoker, stopping smoking will greatly reduce the risk of any recurrence.
Michael Russell Your Independent guide to Bladder Cancer
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