Bladder Cancer

An Overview

Bladder cancer symptoms include painless blood in the urine or frequent and painful urination. Bladder cancer is highly treatable with options such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. The bladder is a hollow, flexible pouch in your pelvis. Its main job is to store urine before it leaves your body.

Bladder cancer occurs in men more frequently than it does in women and usually affects older adults, though it can happen at any age. Bladder cancer most often begins in the cells (urothelial cells) that line the inside of your bladder the hollow, muscular organ in your lower abdomen that stores urine. Bladder cancer is where a growth of abnormal tissue, known as a tumor, develops in the bladder lining. In some cases, the tumour spreads into the bladder muscle. The most common symptom of bladder cancer is blood in your urine which is usually painless. You get bladder cancer when bladder cells become abnormal and grow out of control. Over time a tumor forms.

Many of the toxic chemicals in tobacco smoke are cancer causing substances (carcinogens). These chemicals enter the bloodstream from the lungs and the kidneys then filter them into the urine. Bladder cancer may not initially cause signs or symptoms. When symptoms and signs do occur, blood in the urine is a frequent sign. The bleeding is typically not associated with painful urination.

Types of bladder cancer

Different types of cells in your bladder can become cancerous. The type of bladder cell where cancer begins determines the type of bladder cancer.

  1. Urothelial carcinoma.Urothelial carcinoma, previously called transitional cell carcinoma, occurs in the cells that line the inside of the bladder. Urothelial cells expand when your bladder is full and contract when your bladder is empty.
  2. Squamous cell carcinoma.Squamous cell carcinoma is associated with chronic irritation of the bladder, for instance from an infection or from long-term use of a urinary catheter.
  3. Adenocarcinoma. begins in cells that make up mucus-secreting glands in the bladder.

Symptoms for Bladder Cancer

The most common and often, the first symptom is blood in your urine. It may be just a little, or it can be enough to change the color of your pee. It may turn orange, pink or darker red. Bladder cancer signs and symptoms may include:

  • Blood in urine (hematuria).
  • You have to pee more often than usual.
  • Painful urination.
  • It hurts or burns when you pee.
  • Pelvic pain.
  • You feel like you have to pee even if your bladders not full.
  • Urge to Urinate.
  • You can’t pee or you pee very little.
  • Back pain.
  • Frequent urination.
  • You’re losing weight without trying.
  • Cough /blood in the phlegm(due to spread to cancer cells to bones or lungs).
  • You’re not as hungry as usual.
  • Foot and/or ankle swelling.

Causes for Bladder Cancer

Most cases of bladder cancer appear to be caused by exposure to harmful substances, which lead to abnormal changes in the bladder’s cells over many years.

  • Tobacco smoke is a common cause and it’s estimated that more than 1 in 3 cases of bladder cancer are caused by smoking. The longer and heavier the exposure, greater are the chances of developing bladder cancer. The toxic chemicals in cigarette smoke, many of which are known cancer-causing substances (carcinogens), travel in the bloodstream after being absorbed from the lungs, the kidneys filter the chemicals into the urine.
  • Exposure to chemicals, especially working in a job that requires exposure to chemicals.
  • Past radiation exposure.
  • Chronic irritation of the lining of the bladder.
  • Parasitic infections, especially in people who are from or have traveled to certain areas outside the United States.
  • Age and family history are other risk factors as is male sex. About 90% of people with bladder cancer are over age 55, though in exceptional cases the disease may surface in the third or fourth decade of life.


Bladder cancer is most frequently diagnosed by investigating the cause of bleeding in the urine that a patient has noticed.

Urinalysis: A simple urine test that can confirm that there is bleeding in the urine and can provide an idea about whether an infection is present or not. It is usually one of the first tests that a physician requests.

Ultra sound: An ultrasound examination of the bladder can detect bladder tumors. It can also detect the presence of swelling in the kidneys in case the bladder tumor is located at a spot where it can potentially block the flow of urine from the kidneys to the bladder.

CT scan MRI: A CT scan or MRI provides greater visual detail than an ultrasound exam and may detect smaller tumors in the kidneys or bladder than can be detected by an ultrasound.

Cystoscopy: and biopsy: This is probably the single most important investigation for bladder cancer.


This is done using a surgical technique called transurethral resection of a bladder tumour (TURBT). This is followed by a dose of chemotherapy medication directly into the bladder, to reduce the risk of the cancer returning. Chemotherapy is the preferred treatment for patients with metastatic disease or unresectable bladder cancer.

  • Surgery,to remove cancerous tissue
  • Chemotherapy in the bladder (intravesical chemotherapy),to treat tumors that are confined to the lining of the bladder but have a high risk of recurrence or progression to a higher stage.
  • Reconstruction,to create a new way for urine to exit the body after bladder removal.
  • Radiation therapy,to destroy cancer cells, often as a primary treatment in cases where surgery isn’t an option or isn’t desired.
  • Immunotherapy,to trigger the body’s immune system to fight cancer cells, either in the bladder or throughout the body.


Although there’s no guaranteed way to prevent bladder cancer, you can take steps to help reduce your risk. For instance:

  • Don’t smoke. Not smoking means that cancer-causing chemicals in smoke can’t collect in your bladder. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you smoke, talk to your doctor about a plan to help you stop. Support groups, medications and other methods may help you quit.
  • Take caution around chemicals. If you work with chemicals, follow all safety instructions to avoid exposure.
  • Choose a variety of fruits and vegetables. Choose a diet rich in a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables. The antioxidants in fruits and vegetables may help reduce your risk of cancer.

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