Bladder cancer is a cancer that starts in the lining of the bladder. Around 10,200 people are newly diagnosed with bladder cancer every year. It affects mainly older people and rarely happens in people under the age of 40. In fact, around 60 per cent of cases occur in people over 75 years old. Also, more men than woman suffer from this cancer.
Passing blood in urine (haematuria) is the most common way that bladder cancer presents itself. The bleeding is not usually painful, but passing blood in urine should lead to medical attention – talk to your GP or a specialist urgently if you notice blood in your urine.
The risk factors for bladder cancer include:
- Exposure to industrial chemicals
- Working in the rubber industry
- Chronic bladder infections
The main way you can prevent it is by not smoking.
The GP will refer you to a urologist (a surgeon who deals with disorders of the urinary system) for further investigation as not all bleeding in the urine is due to bladder cancer.
The majority of bladder cancers can be treated by using a special instrument passed into the bladder to remove the growth. This operation is called TURBT (transurethral resection of a bladder tumour). It’s performed while the patient is under a general anaesthetic.
The removed growth is analysed in the laboratory to confirm bladder cancer and the type of the bladder cancer. Importantly, it will look at whether the cancer is just in the lining (called the Ta/T1 stage) or deeper into the actual muscle of the bladder (called the T2/T3 stage).
Further treatment depends on the stage of the cancer. It may involve:
- Regular flexible cystoscopy inspections of the bladder
- Removal of the bladder altogether (cystectomy)
- Radiation treatment
If the bladder needs to be removed, it may be possible to fashion a new bladder from a segment of the bowel.
At times, the bladder cancer can spread around the body (a process called metastases). If this is the case, treatment involves using powerful chemotherapy drugs or newer immunotherapy agents. Such treatments are supervised by an oncologist.
Don’t hesitate to get professional advice if you’re worried about your urological health – click here to discover how Professor Francis Chinegwundoh MBU can help you.