Bladder Cancer Awareness

One of the only national awareness days in July dedicated to raising awareness for the detection, treatment and prevention of Bladder Cancer. A key part of this is consistently new research to enhance our understanding for diagnosis and management of this disease.

Your bladder is the part of your urinary system that stores urine and contracts or expands depending on how full it is. When it contracts it sends a series of neurological signals to the brain and spinal cord to trigger urination. Bladder cancer occurs when the cells inside the bladder grow out of control, most often growing on the inner layers of the bladder, though some grow into the deeper layers. As it infiltrates deeper into the organ, it becomes harder to treat. 90 percent of those diagnosed with bladder cancer have transitional cell cancer (urothelial carcinoma). The other 10 percent of those affected have other types of bladder cancer such as squamous cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma, or small cell cancer.


What are your risks?

This cancer is talked about less often than breast cancer or leukemia, which have worldwide support groups and are common features in television show characters and movies. The risks of bladder cancer are not common knowledge, so here are some facts to enlighten you.

  • Smokers get bladder cancer twice as often as non-smokers.
  • Whites are twice as likely to get bladder cancer as African-Americans or Hispanics and Asians have the lowest rate of bladder cancer.
  • The older you get, the higher your risk.
  • Men get bladder cancer more often than women, but recent studies show an increase in women being diagnosed with the disease.
  • Urinary tract infections, kidney stones and bladder stones have all been linked to bladder cancer.
  • Arsenic in drinking water and exposure to working with chemicals common to the textiles industry have both been tied to a higher incidence of bladder cancer.
  • Treatment for other cancers, such as the drug Cytoxan or radiation treatments can increase your risk.

Symptoms?

The most common signs of bladder cancer is blood in the urine. Even if the bleeding is short-lived and painless, it can be a sign of the disease, so if this symptom presents itself, please see your doctor. It is not a definitive sign and could be evidence of infection, kidney stones or even a side effect of certain medications, but it is always important to have such things evaluated by a professional. Other signs include irritation when urinating, frequency of urination or a constant need to do so.

Diagnosis

The tests used to diagnose bladder cancer include ultrasounds, MRI scans, and IVPs as well as internal examination with a cystoscope inserted through the urethra. While it sounds painful, most such exams today are done with little to no discomfort.
The most important thing to remember is to be pro-active with your health. Ignoring a small problem now could lead to a much bigger issue later.

For more information on Bladder Cancer and common treatments, visit the Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network.

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