What is bladder cancer?
Cancer of the urinary bladder develops in almost 77,000 Americans each year, leading to over 16,000 deaths. According to the American Cancer Society, the chance of a man developing this form of cancer at any time during his life is about one in 26, and for a woman, the chance is one in 88. Since bladder cancer that is detected in the early stages has a good chance of cure, awareness of the signs and symptoms of this malignancy are critical. Anyone experiencing the signs or symptoms of bladder cancer should be checked by a urologist, who can perform tests to diagnose bladder cancer even in its early stages.
What causes bladder cancer?
The cause of bladder cancer is not understood, but certain risk factors are known to increase an individual's risk of getting bladder cancer. Men are about three to four times more likely than women to develop bladder cancer, and older people are more likely to be affected. Up to 90% of those affected are over 55 years of age. Smokers are at an increased risk for development of bladder cancer. Exposure to certain chemicals used in manufacturing and industry (including paints and paint thinners, some hairdressing supplies, and certain dyes) are associated with a higher risk of bladder cancer, so people who work in certain occupations (workers in the rubber, chemical, and leather industries; hairdressers; machinists; metal workers; printers; painters; textile workers; and truck drivers) are at increased risk. Being infected with certain parasites that are common in tropical areas also increases the risk for bladder cancer.
What are the signs and symptoms of bladder cancer?
The following are signs and symptoms of bladder cancer:
- Blood in the urine: This is the most common symptom of bladder cancer and occurs in the vast majority of people with bladder cancer. Having blood in the urine does not necessarily mean a person has cancer, since other conditions (including infections) can lead to bloody urine, but blood in the urine is never normal and should always be evaluated by a doctor.
- Urinary urgency or pain on urination
- Back pain or abdominal pain
- Loss of appetite and weight
What is the survival rate for bladder cancer?
When tumors are in the early stages and have not grown into the bladder wall, they can usually be removed by an outpatient surgical procedure. The five-year survival rate for patients with early stage bladder cancer is 88%. Fortunately, most patients with bladder cancer (up to 80%) will be diagnosed with a superficial tumor. If a tumor has grown into the wall of the bladder but has not spread to other organs, treatment usually involves surgical removal of the tumor, or combined chemotherapy and radiation therapy, with a five-year survival rate of over 60%-75%. In more advanced cases, with spread of the cancer to other sites in the body, more aggressive treatment plans must be considered as survival rates decline, the more advanced the disease is when it is found.
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Steinberg, Gary David, Mark H. Katz, Kush Sachdeva, Brendan Curti, and Bagi R.P. Jana. "Bladder Cancer." eMedicine.com. July 27, 2009. <http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/438262-overview>.
United States. National Cancer Institute. U.S. National Institutes of Health. "Bladder Cancer." Sept. 16, 2002. <http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/wyntk/bladder>.