The bladder plays a very important role in the totality of our health. It functions as a reservoir for urine in our bodies. When the kidneys filter waste from the blood, urine is produced that enters into the bladder through two tubes called ureters, the bladder then allows the storage of urine for a period of time before being released in urination through another tube called urethra.
The bladder can be thought of as a muscular balloon; a flattened structure when there is no urine (immediately after a person urinates) but can be filled up to a liter with urine. Normally when the bladder is filled with urine of about half a liter, we feel the urge to urinate. The muscular structure of the bladder also helps other pelvic muscles to push the urine out when released. The bladder is located in the lower abdomen deep in the pelvis, just above the pubic symphysis.
Bladder cancer refers to any of several types of malignant growth of the urinary bladder. It is a disease in which abnormal cells multiply without control in the bladder. The greatest risk factor for bladder cancer is genetic predisposition (a genetic effect that influences the phenotype of an organism but which can be modified by the environmental conditions); it can also be linked with smoking and occupational exposure to aniline-based dyes (such as textile factory), as well as with petrol and other chemicals.
The most common warning sign of bladder cancer is the presence of blood in the urine, the color can be faintly rusty to deep red depending on the amount of blood present. Other symptoms include pain during urination, frequent urination, or feeling the need to urinate without results. However, these signs and symptoms are not specific to bladder cancer, but may also be caused by non-cancerous conditions such as prostate infections and cystitis. When symptoms do occur, see the doctor right away as any illness should be diagnosed and treated as early as possible.
What are the treatments for bladder cancer?
The treatment of bladder cancer depends on how deep the tumor invades into the bladder wall.
Superficial Bladder Cancer Treatment
This is when the cancer has not invaded into the muscle at all and can be “shaved off” using an electrocautery device attached to a cystoscope. As superficial bladder cancer has high incidence of recurrence, the aim of treatment changes to prevent these recurrences and to prevent progression into an invasive stage. Immunotherapy, in the form of BCG instillation, is also used in the treatment and prevention of the recurrence of superficial tumors. Instillation of chemotherapy into the bladder can also be used to treat this disease.
Muscle Invading Bladder Cancer Treatment
Tumors that infiltrate the bladder require more radical surgery where part or the entire bladder is removed in a surgical removal procedure called cystectomy wherein the urinary stream is diverted. In some cases, skilled surgeons can create a substitute bladder (neobladder) from a segment of intestinal tissue, but the procedure vastly depends upon patient preference, renal function, and the site of the disease.
Bladder cancer is the fourth most common cancer in men and eight most common cancer in women. Over fifty thousand cases are diagnosed every year in the United States, with over twelve thousand deaths.