May is Bladder Cancer Awareness Month

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May is Bladder Cancer Awareness Month

According to the American Cancer Society, it is predicted that for the year 2019, about 80,470 new cases of bladder cancer will be found (about 61,700 cases in men and 18,770 cases in women), and about 17,670 deaths from this disease will occur.  Bladder cancer is the fourth most common cancer in men and the ninth most common cancer in women. 

May has been designated as Bladder Cancer Awareness Month to raise awareness and promote facts about this disease.  When the public is educated about a certain disease such as bladder cancer, this is an important part of moving closer to a cure.

Who is at risk?

Anyone can get bladder cancer but it mainly occurs in older people. About 9 out of 10 people with this cancer are over the age of 55 with the average age at the time of diagnosis being 73.

Overall, the chance men will develop this cancer during their life is about 1 in 27.  For women, the chance is about 1 in 89.  But, there are certain risk factors that can and do increase a person’s risk for developing bladder cancer which include the following:

·      Cigarette smoking – smokers inhale toxins absorbed into the bloodstream and then are excreted by the kidneys into the urine.  When urine sits in the bladder waiting to be expelled, the bladder lining is subjected to the carcinogens increasing the risk of bladder cancer.

·      Radiation therapy for prostate cancer may increase risk for bladder cancer

·      Chemicals – chemicals used in textile, rubber, leather, dye, paint, and print industries may increase the risk

·      Age – more than 70 percent of people with bladder cancer are older than 65 years of age 

·      Chronic bladder problems – bladder stones, infections and people who are paralyzed from the waist down who’ve had many urinary infections

·      Cyclophosphamide – this chemotherapy drug places people who used it at a higher risk

·      Pioglitazone hydrochloride (Actos) – This diabetes drug was given a warning by the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2011 that if it had been taken for a year or more that bladder cancer risk was increased

·      Schistosomiasis – this is a parasitic disease found in parts of Africa and the Mediterranean region that increases risk of bladder cancer

·      Arsenic in drinking water

What are the signs and symptoms of bladder cancer?

Symptoms of bladder cancer include:

·      Blood in the urine – also known as hematuria, this is one of the first signs of bladder cancer.  However, blood alone does not automatically mean you have bladder cancer.  Blood in the urine could also mean a urinary tract infection or kidney stones. 

·      Changes in urination – increased frequency, pain, and a feeling of urination urgency. 

·      Lower back pain

·      Pelvic pain

If a person is experiencing any of the above symptoms, they need to see their doctor right away.  Factors impacting prognosis include the stage and grade of the tumor so the sooner a person can get diagnosed, if it is bladder cancer, the greater the chance of survival.

How is bladder cancer diagnosed?

Anytime blood is seen in your urine, have it tested. A urologist will find bladder cancer with two tests:

1.  Imaging test – usually a computerized tomography (CT) scan.  Imaging looks at your kidneys which can be a source of blood in the urine.

2.  Cystoscopy – a small camera attached to a long, thin tube that is put into the opening of the urethra and into the bladder.  Cystoscopy looks at your bladder lining to detect tumors that can be another source of blood. 

Treatment of bladder cancer

If diagnosed with bladder cancer, treatment options will primarily depend on the depth of the tumor.  For example, it is possible to “shave off” a superficial tumor, one which has not invaded the muscle layer, with electrocautery during a procedure known as robotic-assisted laparoscopic cystectomy.

If left untreated, a superficial tumor can begin to grow and infiltrate in the area of the growth.  Then a more radical surgery where either a portion of or the entire bladder is removed and the urinary stream diverted. 

Steps to take to reduce the risk of bladder cancer

The best ways to reduce bladder cancer risk are to not smoke as people who don’t smoke are three to four times less likely to get bladder cancer as compared to smokers.  Taking steps to avoid environmental carcinogens can also help reduce the risk. 

There are several other steps one can take to greatly reduce the likelihood of developing bladder cancer:

·      Eat more cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, turnips, Brussel sprouts, and cabbage.

·      Drink plenty of water – Drinking water may dilute harmful substances in your urine and flush them out of your bladder faster. At this time there is not conclusive evidence showing drinking water reduces bladder cancer risk but it may help.

·      Take care with chemicals.  If you work with or around chemicals, follow all safety rules to avoid exposure.

 ·      Eat a well-balanced diet – Eat a diversity of fruits and vegetables, nuts and fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids while reducing red, fatty cuts of meat. 

Anyone having symptoms of bladder cancer should go to their doctor as soon as possible.  This will increase the chance of survival when bladder cancer is discovered at an early stage