Bladder cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in the US. It occurs when cells lining the inner layer of the bladder grow out of control. If bladder cancer cells grow through the inner layers into the wall of the bladder, it becomes much harder to treat.
Here are 8 things you need to know about bladder cancer:
- Blood in your urine? It may be time to see a doctor. One of the early symptoms is dark brown, dark yellow or orange urine, although sometimes the presence of blood can only be detected by a microscopic examination. The problem is that many women associate these symptoms with menstruation or menopause and delay going to their doctor. As a result, women are more likely to present with more advanced cancers and have worse prognosis and survival rates than men. Bottom line - it is very important to know your risk factors and have regular checkups.
- Smoking isn’t just bad for your lungs, it is also the biggest risk factor for bladder cancer. In fact, smokers get bladder cancer twice as often as people who don’t smoke. Not only that, a recent study by the National Cancer Institute showed that half of all bladder cancers in women can be attributed to smoking, similar to that seen previously in men.
- Chemicals used in making dyes, rubber, leather, printing materials, textiles and paint product have been linked to a higher risk of bladder cancer. The presence of arsenic in drinking water has been linked to a higher risk of bladder cancer.
- Your race determines your risk. Caucasians are twice as likely to develop bladder cancer as are African Americans or Hispanics. Asians have the lowest rate of bladder cancer.
- Do you have a personal or family history? If you have already had bladder cancer before, you have a higher chance of getting another tumor in your urinary system. Family history also adds to your risk.
- Urinary infections, kidney stones and bladder stones don’t cause bladder cancer, but they have been linked to it. About 30% of bladder cancer patients experience symptoms similar to common bladder infections including burning, frequent urination or a sensation of incomplete emptying after urination…which is why it is important to talk to your health caregiver if you are diagnosed with a urinary tract infection and your symptoms don’t go away after antibiotic treatment. In such situations you need to insist on further evaluation to identify any underlying conditions.
- Advances in treatment choices for bladder cancer include Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT), often used in conjunction with chemotherapy and/or surgery to preserve the bladder and prevent recurrence. Radiation therapy is the alternative treatment of choice if surgery is not possible for medical reasons.
- Bladder cancer is most commonly diagnosed in men over 50 years. However, it can affect women of all ages. Be aware of the signs and symptoms and see a physician right away if you experience any of them.