Understanding Bladder Cancer and Bladder Cancer Treatment

Cancer, in general, is the abnormal mutation, multiplication and growth of cells to form a large mass called a tumour. This can occur almost anywhere in your body (in your head, throat, stomach, lungs, bladder, kidneys, arms, legs, etc.).

The mutation of cells is harmful because it kills healthy cells that have a purpose in your body. For example, your bladder's wall is made of urothelial cells. These cells help in the contraction and expansion of the bladder to enable urine storage and excretion. If these cells mutate, it means that your bladder won't be able to store or excrete urine, creating a huge health problem for you. If this happens, you will be diagnosed with bladder cancer.

Why Do Cells Mutate?

Cells usually mutate in response to a stimulus, for example, exposure to radiation, smoking, exposure to chemicals like the ones used in paint products, exposure to asbestos, etc.

Mutation can also be hereditary. If anyone in your family has ever had cancer, it is possible for an abnormal gene that causes cancer to be present in your genetic makeup. That is why if your family has a history of cancer, you might be advised to undergo genetic testing, which aims to check whether you are at a higher risk of getting cancer.

What Symptoms Do You Experience If You Have Bladder Cancer?

The most common symptoms are blood in the urine or pain urinating, which may also be accompanied by some back pain. You should see a urologist immediately so that he or she can rule out other conditions like STIs (sexually transmitted infections) or UTIs (urinary tract infections).

What Does Treatment Involve?

You should first know that it is important to diagnose all forms of cancer at an early stage. Treatment at this stage is easier, less invasive and less extensive. If caught during the early stages, bladder cancer can be treated through chemotherapy, radiation therapy and minor surgery to remove cancerous tissue. There is a high chance that you will retain the use of your bladder, but you might require regular check-ups to ensure mutations do not occur again.

If your bladder cancer is diagnosed during the late stages, it means that it has grown extensively and most likely damaged your bladder and the tissue around it. You might need chemotherapy and radiation therapy to shrink the size of the tumour and then surgery to remove it.

The surgeon might use your intestines to make a urine storage pouch.  Depending on the extent of damage, it may be connected to your urethra or an opening on your body. If the latter is done, you might need a catheter to empty it. In some cases, you might need to wear a urine bag. 

Talk to a doctor to learn more about bladder cancer treatment.