Information on Bladder Cancer:
Types of bladder cancer
The vast majority of bladder cancers begin in the lining of the bladder, or urothelium. Urothelial cell cancers come in many different forms, ranging from large growths in the wall of the bladder, which require major surgery, to small growths on the inside of the bladder, which can be successfully removed during a simple operation.
Many bladder cancers (known as superficial or papillary tumours) grow on the inside lining of the bladder. These have the appearance of small mushrooms, with the stalk attached to the lining of the bladder. If left untreated, they can spread into the wall of the bladder, making the condition harder to treat.
Those tumours that do spread into the wall of the bladder are known as invasive tumours.
The causes of bladder cancer
A number of factors are known to increase the risk of developing bladder cancer. In the UK, cigarette smoking is a primary factor. This is due to the fact that harmful chemicals (that are known to cause bladder cancer) are present in cigarette smoke.
Other factors include exposure to harmful chemicals at work, including those used in plastics and other chemical industries such as dye factories. These chemicals have been banned in the UK since the mid-seventies, but it can take up to 25 years for bladder cancers to develop as a result of such exposure. If you think that you were exposed to certain harmful chemicals through your workplace, discuss this with your doctor. You could be entitled to claim industrial disease benefit from the department of social security.
Infections or bladder stones that bring about repeated bouts of cystitis, are thought to be another factor leading to the development of bladder cancer.
Hereditary factors may also play a part on rare occasions. It is thought that this is due to an inherited faulty gene.
Bladder cancer occurs mainly in people over 50 years old and studies have shown that it is twice as common in men as it is in women.
The symptoms of bladder cancer
Bladder cancer often initially presents itself in the form of blood in the urine, which is known as haematuria. This generally is not painful and can come and go – although the underlying problem remains. On occasion, this can lead to painful muscle spasms in the bladder due to the formation of blood clots.
You should consult your doctor as a matter of priority if you do see any blood in your urine. Although this can often be attributable to other conditions such as kidney or bladder stones, it is important to let your doctor determine the cause so that you can receive treatment.
The need to pass urine regularly and a burning sensation are often found in many other conditions where the bladder is irritated – which of course is most commonly due to an infection rather than bladder cancer.
However, if these feelings do not go away having received antibiotics from your doctor, then additional diagnostic tests will be necessary.
Methods of diagnosis
The initial stages of diagnosis involve a physical examination and the provision of a urine sample, which is sent to the laboratory to be checked for cancer cells under a microscope.
The physical examination is likely to include a rectal examination for both men and women and an internal examination of the birth canal in women.
Your doctor may also refer you to your local hospital to undergo additional tests such as blood tests (to check your health, blood count and kidney function), and cytoscopy, (whereby a small fibre-optic telescope is used to visually examine the lining of the urethra and bladder).
If the cytoscopy reveals any abnormalities, you may be asked to undergo an intravenous urogram or IVU or even a biopsy.