Bladder cancer is a form of cancer that starts in the cells of the bladder. It is one of the most common cancers in the United States.
The bladder is an organ that holds urine until it’s ready to be excreted from the body. Urine is produced by two kidneys and stored in the bladder until it’s passed out through a tube called the urethra. Urine is a mixture of water, salt, protein, and urea (a waste product made by your liver).
The bladder is an empty, muscular, balloon-like organ located in the lower part of your abdomen (the pelvis). A urine-proof membrane lines the bladder, preventing urine from being absorbed back into your body. The transitional cells or urothelial cells that make up this membrane are known as transitional cells or urothelial cells, and the lining membrane is known as the urothelium. When they get full enough to be called full, nerve signals are sent to the brain so you know it’s time to go!
Then, muscles in bladder contract to push urine out through the urethra.
Your body’s organs and tissues are made up of tiny building blocks called cells. Although the cells in different parts of your body may look and function differently, all of them regenerate in the same way. Cells age and die all the time, and new ones are created to take their place. The division and growth of cells is usually orderly and controlled, but if this process is disrupted for any reason, the cell will continue to divide and expand into a lump known as a tumour. They are classified as either benign or malignant (cancerous).
Benign vs Malignant Tumours
Cells of a benign tumour do not expands to other organs of the body and are therefore not malignant. If they continue to grow at the source spot, however, they can cause problems by pressing on nearby organs.
Remember that any cancer is not a single disease with a single type of treatment prescribed. There are more than 100 types of cancer, each of which has its own name and different types of treatment options.
Different Variants of Bladder Cancer
The bladder is made up of two types of tissue: transitional cells, also called urothelial cells, and muscle. Bladder cancer usually begins in the transitional cells.
Bladder cancer can be either non-invasive or invasive. Non-invasive bladder cancer means the cancer has not grown into the inner layer of the bladder wall. Invasive bladder cancer means the cancer that has developed into the inner muscles and tissues in the bladder wall.
You can think of bladder cancer like this: it starts on the cells in the lining of the bladder. There are 3 main types:
-Urothelial cell carcinoma
-Squamous cell carcinoma
And there are other types to.
Bladder cancer is a malignant tumour that grows from the cells that line the inner surface of the bladder (urothelium). Transitional cell or urothelial cell tumours are the names given to these kinds of cancers. They can vary enormously in appearance and behaviour. It can spread through nearby tissues or organs or to other parts of the body through lymphatic channels or blood vessels. For example, they may be a small wart-like growth on the inside of the bladder, which can be removed by a simple operation and may never come back. At other times they form a large tumour developing into the muscle wall of the bladder, requiring major surgery.
Squamous cell cancer and adenocarcinoma are two other category of bladder cancer that are less common. Squamous cell carcinoma develops from one type of urothelial cell. Adenocarcinoma originates from glandular cells that make mucus.
Papillary cancers are a kind of bladder cancer that causes warty excrescence or mushroom-like growths on the interior lining of the bladder. They have a small stem that is linked to the bladder lining and may spread through your bladder wall in some cases. Papillary tumours can also be divided into two categories: papillary superficial tumours and papillary invasive tumours.
Bladder cancer occurs when cells in the lining of the bladder grow uncontrollable. If these cells are left untreated, they can eventually expand to other organs of your body. This is called metastasis and is the most common cause of death from bladder cancer.
Early Signs of Bladder Cancer
Bladder cancer is a serious condition that can affect anyone, regardless of age or gender. When diagnosed early, bladder cancer can often be treated successfully.
Bladder cancer is most observed in adults between the ages of 50 and 70. It affects twice as many males as it does women. Bladder cancer is extremely uncommon in male and females under the age of 40.
Early-stage bladder cancer rarely causes signs or symptoms, so most cases are diagnosed when they’re still superficial. When symptoms occur, they may include:
- Blood in your urine (hematuria) or cloudy urine
- Pain or burning while urination
- A frequent urge to urinate even though there’s very little urine coming out
- Back pain
- Itching around your anus or on your perineum
Cigarette smoke contains specific compounds that trigger bladder cancer. The chemicals take a long time to create bladder cancer, and the more cigarettes smoked, the higher the risk.
Bladder cancer is another disease that can be caused by chemicals. Exposure to certain substances at work can lead to bladder cancer. Some of these substances have been banned due to their cancer-causing properties, but it may take up to 25 years for cancer to develop after exposure.
Blood in the urine is the most seen symptom of in this cancer type. It usually occurs suddenly and is not painful. The blood may be there one day, then disappear for several days or weeks before returning again. Blood clots can cause painful muscle spasms in the bladder.
Often people might have a burning sensation when they excrete urine, and need to go for urination very often. However, these are also symptoms of bladder irritation and will usually be due to an infection rather than cancer. If the symptoms continue and do not get better with antibiotics, further tests may be necessary.
If you see any blood in your urine, although this symptom is more likely to be due to conditions other than cancer, e.g. infection or stones in the kidney or bladder.
Bladder cancer can be treated and many people survive. If you have any of the symptoms outlined above, see your doctor.
Treatment of Bladder Cancer
When diagnosing bladder cancer, a doctor will usually begin with a physical examination and request that you give a urine sample. Your doctor may also do an internal exam, particularly if he or she suspects the presence of cancer.
The urine sample will be sent to a lab for testing under a microscope for cancer cells. You doctor may also order other tests or x-rays. You will need to be referred to a hospital for any further tests, advice, and treatment.
Your doctor may perform the following tests to diagnose bladder cancer:
- Cystoscopy and biopsy
- Blood tests
- Chest x-ray
- Intravenous urogram (IVU or IVP)
Cystoscopy and biopsy:
this is where a camera with a light at the end is passed through the urethra (the tube that carries urine out of the body) into your bladder. The doctor can then view the inside of your bladder on a monitor. If any areas of concern are seen, they may take a sample of tissue (a biopsy) from inside your bladder wall.
these can help find out if there’s anything unusual in your blood, such as raised levels of substances produced by cancer cells.
This is taken to check that your lungs and heart are working properly.
An intravenous urogram (IVU)
Bladder Cancer is a series of X-ray images that look at the kidneys, ureters, and bladder. A dye is injected into a vein. The dye travels through the bloodstream to the kidneys and urinary tract. The dye causes the kidneys, ureters, and bladder to be seen more clearly on an X-ray. The dye used can also cause some side effects, including:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Allergic reaction
Conventional Treatments of Bladder Cancer
Treatment for bladder cancer depends on many factors:
- the size and location of the tumour
- whether the cancer has invaded the muscle layer or spread beyond the bladder
- the patient’s age, general health and personal preferences
Treatment options may include:
- Surgery, such as transurethral resection of bladder tumour (TURBT)
- Intravesical chemotherapy (chemotherapy given directly into the bladder)
- Radical cystectomy (removal of the whole bladder)
Many tumours in the bladder are the small papillary type. To remove this type of cancer a cystoscope is used. The tumour is removed at the stem and the area is cauterised. This procedure is known as a transurethral resection of a bladder tumour (TURBT) and in this way, several tumours can be treated at the same time.
Chemotherapy may be used to treat some people with superficial cancer of the bladder. Chemotherapy given into the bladder is called intravesical chemotherapy. The most commonly used drugs in this situation are mitomycin-C and epirubicin.
Surgery Part, or all of the bladder may need to be removed. If the whole bladder is removed, you may need to have a new bladder made.
Radiotherapy is treatment using high-energy rays that destroy cancer cells while doing as little harm as possible to normal cells. It may be used instead of surgery, then surgery may only be needed if the cancer comes back later on. If radiotherapy is given, your bladder does not need to be removed, but you will still need to have cystoscopies (usually every 3 months or so) after the treatment to make sure that the cancer has not come back.
Conventional treatment for bladder cancer includes surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. However, there are many alternative treatments that may be beneficial in the treatment of bladder cancer.
One such alternative treatment is the use of the amino acid cysteine in conjunction with vitamin C and niacinamide. Cysteine is found in eggs, milk and meat products like chicken, fish and soybeans. It can also be taken as a dietary supplement.
Cysteine is an amino acid that helps to create glutathione in your body which has been shown to fight against cancer cells as well as help prevent damage from free radicals. Vitamin C helps repair damaged cells while niacinamide supports cellular function by helping to produce energy from glucose molecules within your body’s cells.
While it’s unclear exactly how this combination works, some studies have shown that it can slow down or even reverse tumour growth when combined with conventional treatments like chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
If you’re diagnosed with bladder cancer, your doctor will determine how extensive the cancer is, and your treatment options. The stage of a bladder tumor refers to the size of the tumor and whether the cancer has spread.
Staging helps your doctor to determine the best treatment options for you. It’s also used to compare statistics on survival rates at various stages of bladder cancer.
What after Treatment?
You may also be very concerned about the effect that the sugery may have on your personal relationships and lifestyle. You may be worried continuing to have sex with your partner or not. Many people find that once they have summoned up the courage to talk about their fears with a partner, their minds are set at ease. Just talking about your feelings can help to clarify your fears and also gives others the chance to understand how you are feeling if you have any concerns about personal relationships or sexual matters, it is important that you discuss them with a doctor or nurse as soon as possible. They can give you advice and counselling, and refer you to an appropriate support group if necessary.