Certain changes in the DNA inside normal bladder cells can lead to abnormal growth and formation of cancer. Bladder cancer symptoms range from lower back pain to blood in your urine. Read to know more about bladder cancer.
What is bladder cancer?
Bladder cancer is a type of cancer that starts in your bladder, which is a balloon-shaped organ in the pelvic area that executes the function of storing urine.
Bladder cancer starts mostly in the cells that are present in the inner lining of the bladder. Although, bladder cancer can occur at any age, it usually affects older adults.
The great majority of bladder cancers are detected at an early stage, when it is not life-threatening and highly treatable. However, recurrence of even an early-stage bladder cancer is possible. Thus, people who survive bladder cancer often undergo follow-up tests for many coming years after treatment to look for the recurrence of bladder cancer.
What are the symptoms of bladder cancer?
Bladder cancer can be detected at an early stage because it is associated with bloody urine (hematuria) or other urinary symptoms.
Generally, hematuria is the first bladder cancer symptom. Sometimes, the colour of the urine changes to orange, pink, or, darker red due to presence of large amount of blood.
Blood may be present on one day and absent the next, with the urine remaining clear for weeks or months. If a person has bladder cancer, blood reappears in due course.
Bladder cancer symptoms can sometimes include:
- frequent urination
- pain or burning during urination
- urge to urinate even when it is not full
- having trouble during urinating or having a weak urine stream
Advanced bladder cancer symptoms
Bladder cancers that have advanced or have spread to other body parts can sometimes result into the following symptoms:
- Being unable to urinate
- Swelling in the feet
- Pain on one side of the lower back
- Loss of appetite and weight loss
- Fatigue or tiredness
- Bone pain
Many of these symptoms are more probable to be caused by conditions other than bladder cancer. However, it is important to get yourself checked in case any of these symptoms appear, so that the cause can be found and cured.
Bladder cancer treatment
The course of bladder cancer treatment depends on the stage, overall health of the patient, age, support system and other preferences. Bladder cancer treatments mainly include:
Surgery is the most common bladder cancer treatment and is available for all stages of the disease.
A transurethral resection (TUR) is a procedure in which a cutting tool is inserted into the bladder using a type of cystoscope called a resectoscope. It can be used to remove small tumours and abnormal tissue and to burn away any remaining cancerous cells. It can treat stage 0 and stage 1 bladder cancer.
If the cancer has grown or spread deeper into the bladder, a form of cystectomy can be performed.
A partial cystectomy includes taking away a portion of the bladder that contains cancer cells.
A radical cystectomy is the removal of the entire bladder and usually involves the removal of surrounding lymph nodes, the prostate and seminal vesicles, and/or the uterus, ovaries and part of the vagina.
Reconstructive surgery will be performed after a radical cystectomy to make a new way for the body to stock up and eliminate urine.
Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells or to minimize tumours so that they can be controlled with less invasive surgery. It can be performed to treat cancer before or after surgery, and the drugs can be given orally, through veins or into the bladder with a flexible tube (catheter).
Chemotherapy is usually given in series. After every period of treatment there is a period of rest to allow the body to recover.
The side effects of chemotherapy are constipation or diarrhoea, fatigue, increased bleeding or bruising, increased risk of infection, loss of appetite, hair loss, mouth sores, nausea and vomiting.
Radiation therapy is used less frequently and is usually performed alongside chemotherapy. It kills cancer that has infected the muscular wall of the bladder and may be helpful for people who can’t undergo a surgery.
The side-effects of radiation therapy include discomfort in the bladder, hematuria, diarrhoea, fatigue, nausea and vomiting, irritation in targeted areas of the skin.
Early stages of cancer can be cured by strengthening the immune system, this is known as biological therapy or immunotherapy.
The most common form of biological therapy is Bacillus Calmette-Guerin therapy (BCG). This treatment is usually given once a week for 6 weeks. Its symptoms are manageable.
Interferon (a protein made by the immune system to fight infection) is another option under biological therapy. A synthetic version of interferon can be used in bladder cancer treatment, sometimes in combination with BCG.
Bladder cancer is where an abnormal growth of tissues takes place in the inner lining of the bladder. Hematuria is the first and most common bladder cancer symptom including other urinary symptoms. In its early stages, it can be brought under control with various bladder cancer treatments, followed by recurrent check-ups.