The word “cancer” brings out different reactions in different people. To some, it is a scary, deadly disease. To others, it is a reason to avoid all kinds of carcinogens. To many, it is a disease that they live with and battle every single day. Most of us are familiar with the more popular types of cancer like lung cancer, oral cancer, breast cancer, skin cancer, and leukemia. Bladder cancer, however, is not just rare but also often left undiagnosed. This especially holds true for women. And, if there’s one thing we’re sure of when it comes to cancer, it is the fact that the sooner it is diagnosed, the easier it is to cure.
Types Of Bladder Cancer
The wall of the bladder has many layers of tissues. Each tissue is made up of cells. Bladder cancer starts in the cells of the innermost layer. As the cancer cells develop, they grow into or through other layers of the bladder. In the most advanced stage of bladder cancer, the cells form a tumor and spread to other parts of the body.1 There are three ways to categorize bladder cancer, based on its severity:
- Non-invasive cancer: This is when the cancer is in the inner layer of the bladder and has not spread to the deeper layers.
- Invasive cancer: This is when cancer has spread to the deeper layers of the bladder wall. This might spread to the main muscle layer of the bladder and is difficult to treat.
- Superficial or non-muscle invasive cancer: This includes both invasive and noninvasive tumors that have not grown into the main muscle layer.
Common Symptoms Of Bladder Cancer
Bladder cancer accounts for 5 percent of all cancers in the United States. As of 2017, nearly 79,030 people have been diagnosed with this cancer.2 Although men are more likely to get bladder cancer, women often ignore the signs. This is because these signs could easily be mistaken for menstruation, menopause or urinary infections. Here are 4 signs of bladder cancer that you must not ignore.
1. Pain During Urination
If you experience pain and a burning sensation during urination, then you might be diagnosed with dysuria, which involves the infection of the lower urinary tract. You might even have intestinal cystitis, which causes pain in the bladder and the pelvic area. However, pain during urination is also a sign of bladder cancer.3 A urinalysis, which checks the color of urine and what it consists of – sugar, protein, white blood cells, red blood cells – can help determine if the cause of the pain is cancer or not.
2. Blood During Urination
Spotting is common during menstruation and menopause. However, another cause of blood during urination might be hematuria. There are two kinds of hematuria:
- Microscopic hematuria: This is when blood in urine is not visible to the naked eye and can only be detected through a microscope.
- Gross hematuria: This is when blood in urine is clearly visible to the naked eye.
Often, urinary tumors cause bleeding during urination.4 While these could easily be noncancerous, it’s always best to get it checked. Studies have shown that tests for hematuria can detect bladder cancer early on and prevent the cancer from spreading to the bladder muscle.5
3. Recurring Urinary Tract Infection
Common signs of a urinary tract infection (UTI) include blood in urine, urgent need to urinate, and irritation or a burning sensation during urination. UTIs can easily be treated with antibiotics and fewer episodes are linked to a decrease in the risk of bladder cancer. However, studies also link recurring episodes of UTI with bladder cancer.6 The risk of UTIs and bladder cancer is higher in women who smoke. In fact, half of the symptoms of bladder cancer are attributed to cigarette smoking.7 If UTI symptoms persist, it’s best to visit a doctor and get tested right away.8
4. Muscle And Bone Pain
The latter stages of bladder cancer are linked to muscle and bone pain.9 In fact, tumors in the bladder are very likely to be malign and spread to lymph nodes, lung, liver, and bone.10 If you experience recurring and unusual pain in your belly, back, or bone, it might be wise to get a check up done.11
Other Symptoms Of Bladder Cancer
While there isn’t enough research on these, bladder cancer in its latter stages might include the following symptoms:
- Swelling in the feet
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Change in bowel habits
Although men are more likely to get bladder cancer, women are more likely to die from it. They are also more likely to have advanced tumors.12 Early diagnoses could help effectively fight bladder cancer. So if you or someone you know has these symptoms, a visit to the doctor might help detect cancer before it gets worse.
|↑1||About Bladder Cancer. American Cancer Society.|
|↑2||Key Statistics For Bladder Cancer. American Cancer Society.|
|↑3||Bladder Cancer. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.|
|↑4||Messing, Edward M., Theresa B. Young, Vernon B. Hunt, Ellen B. Roecker, Allison M. Vaillancourt, William J. Hisgen, E. Barry Greenberg, Michael E. Kuglitsch, and John D. Wegenke. “Home screening for hematuria: results of a multi-clinic study.” The Journal of urology 148, no. 2 (1992): 289-292.|
|↑5||Messing, Edward M., Theresa B. Young, Vernon B. Hunt, Kennedy W. Gilchrist, Michael A. Newton, Lora L. Bram, William J. Hisgen, E. Barry Greenberg, Michael E. Kuglitsch, and John D. Wegenke. “Comparison of bladder cancer outcome in men undergoing hematuria home screening versus those with standard clinical presentations.” Urology 45, no. 3 (1995): 387-397.|
|↑6||Vermeulen, Sita H., Norhaida Hanum, Anne J. Grotenhuis, Gemma Castano-Vinyals, Antoine G. Van Der Heijden, Katja K. Aben, Indira U. Mysorekar, and Lambertus A. Kiemeney. “Recurrent urinary tract infection and risk of bladder cancer in the Nijmegen bladder cancer study.” British journal of cancer 112, no. 3 (2015): 594.|
|↑7||Cigarette Smoking Implicated In Half Of Bladder Cancers In Women. US Department Of Health And Human Services.|
|↑8||Could Persistent UTI-like Symptoms be Bladder Cancer? University Of Rochester Medical Center.|
|↑9||Daniels, Clinton J., Pamela J. Wakefield, and Glenn A. Bub. “Bladder metastasis presenting as neck, arm and thorax pain: a case report.” Chiropractic & manual therapies 24, no. 1 (2016): 14.|
|↑10||van der Meijden, Adrian PM. “Fortnightly review: Bladder cancer.” BMJ: British Medical Journal 317, no. 7169 (1998): 1366.|
|↑11||Bladder cancer: Men at risk. Harvard Health Publications.|
|↑12||Women And Bladder Cancer. Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network.|