Bladder cancer is a type of cancer that originates in the cells of the bladder, and is quite common.
What is bladder cancer?
Your bladder is a hollow organ that stores urine.
If cells in your bladder change and become malignant (cancerous), forming a tumour, you develop bladder cancer.
In the vast majority of cases, your bladder cancer begins in the cells lining the inside of the bladder.
Bladder cancer can be treated if caught early, however, it can come back.
What are the symptoms of bladder cancer?
The most common symptom of bladder cancer is blood in your urine. Other symptoms include:
- Frequent urination
- Sudden urges to urinate
- Painful urination
- Back pain
If you have these symptoms, you should see your doctor.
What causes bladder cancer?
It’s not clear what causes bladder cancer, but there are certain risk factors that make you more likely to get it, such as:
- Repeated UTIs / bladder inflammation conditions like cystitis
- Former cancer treatment
- Your age – the older you are, the more likely you are to get it (most diagnoses are of those aged 55 or over)
- Your genes – if you have a family member with cancer, this might increase your chances
- Your gender – men are more likely to get it than women
- Your ethnicity – it is more prevalent in people of African and African-Caribbean descent
How is bladder cancer diagnosed?
If you’re experiencing symptoms you think might be caused by bladder cancer, see your doctor. To help make a diagnosis, your doctor will ask you about your medical history and symptoms, and perform a physical examination, checking your rectum / vagina for lumps associated with bladder cancer.
They may test your urine or refer you for blood tests and imaging tests.
Your doctor may use a scope to examine the inside of your bladder (this is called a cystoscopy) and take a biopsy – a sample of your bladder cell – to test for abnormalities.
How is bladder cancer treated?
Treatment options vary individual by individual. Your treatment depends on a range of factors, such as the stage the cancer is at, your own wishes and your health profile.
The type of surgery you have will depend on how far the cancer has spread.
If abnormal cells are found following a biopsy, in most cases you’ll be offered a surgical procedure called a transurethral resection of a bladder tumour (TURBT), followed by a dose of chemotherapy.
Other surgical options include a partial cystectomy (to remove part of the bladder) or radical cystectomy (to remove your entire bladder). If you have a radical cystectomy, your surgeon needs to perform further surgery so your urine is able to leave your body, so you might be offered neobladder reconstruction, ileal conduit or continent urinary reservoir surgeries.
Other treatments include radiation therapy or immunotherapy.
As bladder cancer can recur, your doctor will likely offer a cystoscopy every 3-6 months, for the first few years after your treatment.
Your doctor will discuss your options with you in detail and recommend what they think is the best option.
If you’re unsure what treatment you should go for, or the above treatments don’t work for you, our team of expert specialists are here to help.