Bladder cancer refers to a malignant tumor that often arises from the cells which line the inside of the bladder, that is the urothelium. These mutant cells are able to multiply without control leading to disastrous consequences for the affected individual. Typically, adults over 40 years of age are the ones mostly affected by this cancer although in rare instances, younger people may also be affected. Globally, an estimated 275000 people are newly diagnosed with bladder cancer annually and about 108000 of them die from the disease. Furthermore, bladder cancer has the highest recurrence rate of all cancers.
Highlighted in this article are important facts you should know about bladder cancer.
1. Different types of bladder cancer exist
The different kinds of cells within the bladder can become cancerous and the type of cell which is affected determines the type of bladder cancer which in turn determines the best treatment option. The commonest type of bladder cancer is the transitional cell carcinoma which involves the cells that line the inside of the bladder. Squamous cell cancer is another type which is more common in tropical countries especially after schistosomiasis infection of the bladder. Lastly, adenocarcinoma is one that involves the mucus-secreting glands within the bladder.
2. Bladder cancer is likely to reoccur
Of all cancers known to man, bladder cancer still has the highest tendency to recur. Therefore, those who were previously treated for the disease have an increased risk of reoccurence, hence the need for regular follow-up. In the same vein, if one or more of your immediate relatives have had bladder cancer, you stand a higher chance of developing the disease.
3. Drugs may increase your risk
It’s been discovered that certain medications tend to make individuals more likely to develop bladder cancer. For instance, cyclophosphamide is an anti-cancer drug that may itself predispose people to bladder cancer. Also, it’s been observed that diabetic patients on oral hypoglycemic agent, pioglitazone for more than one year may have an increased bladder cancer risk.
4. Bladder cancer produces some symptoms
Anyone that has bladder cancer may experience one or more of the following symptoms. Haematuria (bloody urine) in which the urine appears bright red or coke-coloured is the commonest symptom in bladder cancer. Other symptoms include frequent urination, painful urination (dysuria), pelvic and back pain.
5. Drinking plenty water may reduce your risk
Apart from avoiding cigarettes and other carcinogens, drinking plenty of water may offer some protection from bladder cancer. For instance, researchers observed that men who drank at least 1.5l of water daily were less likely to develop bladder cancer than their counterparts who drank less than one cup a day.
6. Bladder cancer can be diagnosed
The gold standard for the diagnosis of bladder cancer is cystoscopy with biopsy. During cystoscopy, a narrow tube with a lens at the tip is advanced into your bladder. It allows the doctor to view and examine inside the bladder. If any abnormal tissue is detected, a biopsy tool is passed through the scope to collect a sample of such which is then subjected to histologic analysis before the diagnosis of bladder cancer is confirmed.
7. Bladder cancer can be treated
Depending on the type and stage of the cancer as well as the overall health status and preference of the patient, numerous treatment options are available for bladder cancer. At the early stage, surgery may be performed to remove the bladder tumour (transurethral resection of bladder tumour). In some cases, a small portion of the bladder tissue may also be removed in addition to the tumour (partial cystectomy). Furthermore, in advanced bladder cancer, the entire bladder is removed (radical cystectomy) and the surgeon has to create an alternative bladder to store and expel urine from the body. Chemotherapeutic agents are drugs that kill cancer cells and may be administered before or after surgery to shrink tumour size. Other treatment options include radiotherapy and immunotherapy.
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