Bladder cancer is a common type of cancer that begins in the bladder cells. The bladder is an empty muscle in the lower abdomen that stores urine.
Bladder cancer usually starts with cells (urothelial cells) that lie inside your bladder. Urothelial cells are also found in your kidneys and in the tubes (ureters) that connect the kidneys to the bladder.
Urothelial cancer can also occur in the kidneys and ureters but is more common in the bladder. Most bladder cancers are diagnosed at an early stage when the cancer is easily treated.
But even the early stages of bladder cancer can return to successful treatment. For this reason, people with bladder cancer often need follow-up tests over years of treatment to find recurrent bladder cancer.
Characteristics and symptoms of bladder cancer may include:
Blood in the urine (hematuria), which can make the urine appear bright red or cola-colored, even though the urine sometimes looks normal and the blood appears in a laboratory test.
When to consult a physician?
If you notice that your urine has changed color and you are concerned that it contains blood, consult your doctor to check it. Also, make an appointment with your doctor if you experience any other signs or symptoms that worry you.
Bladder cancer begins when bladder cells have mutations in their DNA. The cell’s DNA has instructions that tell the cell what to do.
The changes tell the cell to multiply quickly and live as healthy cells die. Abnormal cells form a tumor that can penetrate and destroy normal body tissue.
Over time, abnormal cells can disintegrate and spread (metastasize) throughout the body.
Types of bladder cancer
Different cell types in your bladder can become cancerous. The type of bladder cell in which cancer begins determines the type of bladder cancer. Based on this information, doctors will determine which treatment is best for you.
Types of bladder cancer include:
Urothelial carcinoma, formerly called transitional cell carcinoma, occurs in cells located inside the bladder. Urothelial cells expand when the bladder is full and shrink when the bladder is empty.
These same cells lie inside the ureters and urethra, and cancers can also form in these areas.
Urothelial carcinoma is the most common type of bladder cancer in the United States.
Squamous cell carcinoma:
Squamous cell carcinoma is associated with frequent bladder irritation – such as infection or long-term use of a urinary catheter. Squamous cell carcinoma of the bladder is rare in the United States. It is more common in parts of the world where parasitic infections (schistosomiasis) are the most common cause of bladder infections.
Adenocarcinoma begins in the cells that make up the mucus-secreting bladder glands. Bladder adenocarcinoma is very rare.
Some bladder cancers contain more than one cell type.
Factors that increase the risk of bladder cancer include:
Smoking- Smoking, tobacco, or piping can increase the risk of bladder cancer by accumulating harmful chemicals in the urine. When you smoke, your body processes the chemicals in the smoke and excretes some of them in the urine.
These harmful chemicals can damage the lining of your bladder, which can increase your risk of cancer.
The risk of bladder cancer increases with age. Although it occurs at any age, most people diagnosed with bladder cancer are over 55 years old.
Men are more likely to develop bladder cancer than women.
Exposure to certain chemicals- Your kidneys play an important role in filtering harmful chemicals from the bloodstream and transferring them to the bladder.
Therefore, it is thought that the circulation of certain chemicals may increase the risk of bladder cancer. Chemicals associated with bladder cancer risk include arsenic and chemicals used in the manufacture of dyes, rubber, leather, textiles, and dyes.
Treatment with the anticancer medicine cyclophosphamide increases the risk of bladder cancer. People who receive pelvic radiation therapy for previous cancers have a higher risk of developing bladder cancer.
Chronic inflammation of the bladder:
Chronic or recurrent infections or inflammation of the urinary tract (cystitis), such as those that occur with long-term use of a urinary catheter, may increase the risk of squamous cell carcinoma.
In some parts of the world, squamous cell carcinoma is associated with chronic inflammation of the bladder due to a parasitic infection known as schistosomiasis.
Personal or family history of cancer- If you have bladder cancer, you are more likely to get it again. If one of your blood relatives – a parent, sibling, or child – has a history of bladder cancer, you may be at increased risk of the disease, even if bladder cancer is rare in families.
A family history of Lynch syndrome, also known as hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC), may increase the risk of cancer in the urinary system, such as the colon, uterus, ovaries, and other organs.
While there is no guaranteed way to prevent bladder cancer, you can take steps to reduce the risk. For example:
Do not smoke- If you do not smoke, do not start. If you smoke, talk to your doctor about a plan to help you quit. Support groups, medications, and other methods can help you quit.
Beware of chemicals- Follow all safety instructions when handling chemicals to avoid exposure.
Choose different fruits and vegetables- Choose a diet rich in colorful fruits and vegetables. Antioxidants in fruits and vegetables can help reduce the risk of cancer.