Men more at risk for bladder cancer

Bladder cancer is the fourth most common malignancy in the United States and is also considered one of the 10 deadliest cancers.  The American Cancer Society estimates for 2017 that about 60,490 new cases of this cancer will be diagnosed in men.  If there’s a cancer men are more likely to get than women it is bladder cancer  - for 2017 18,540 women are estimated to receive the diagnosis of this disease.  Recognizing the symptoms associated with bladder cancer can be crucial as the sooner it is discovered, the more likely a person will survive the disease.

Who is at risk

Men are about 3 to 4 times more at risk of developing bladder cancer with the average age of diagnosis at 73 years.  According to the American Cancer Society, the disease is uncommon before age 60 as 9 out of 10 people with cancer of the bladder are over the age of 55.  It steadily increases as a person gets older.

Men who are Caucasian have double the risk of African Americans.

Risk Factors

Pinpointing the exact cause of any cancer is difficult as cancers are caused by varying combinations of genetic and environmental factors. Scientists are just beginning to understand the genes that increase the risk of bladder cancer. It appears to be influenced by oncogenes stimulating malignant transformation of cells and then tumor suppressor genes mutating and losing the ability to claim their role of fighting off cancer cell growth.

Other risk factors for bladder cancer include the following:

·Cigarette smoking – smokers inhale toxins absorbed into the bloodstream and then 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

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.

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

·Lower back pain

·Pelvic pain – might include spasms and discomfort in the pelvic area or groin

·Unexplained swelling in the lower extremities

·Chronic bladder inflammation, urinary stones or chronic urinary tract infections

If bladder cancer is suspected, the doctor will conduct a cystoscopic procedure which removes a small piece of bladder tissue to be examined.  A doctor may also decide to conduct a cystoscopy which is an inspection of the bladder with a slender tube known as a cystoscope equipped with a lens and a light inserted into the bladder through the urethra.

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

There are several 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.

·Quit smoking – Cigarette smoke contains cancer-causing chemicals that can collect in the bladder.

·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. 

If a man does have symptoms of bladder cancer, he should go to his doctor as soon as possible.  This will increase his chance of survival when bladder cancer is in its earliest stages with the survival rate exceeding 80%.  If it is diagnosed at a later stage, the survival rate drops to less than 25%.