Bladder cancer may not be on someone’s radar unless they get symptoms like blood or pus in the urine. Even then, they may misconstrue it as a simple urinary tract infection, unless properly diagnosed by an expert like Best urologist in Islamabad. However, bladder cancer often presents its own set of warning signs and symptoms in both men and women. Read on to know more about these warning signs:
What is bladder cancer?
Bladder cancer involves uncontrolled growth of the cells of the bladder wall, known as the urothelial cells. Bladder is the organ located in the pelvis that stores the urine before excretion. The kidneys are connected to the bladder through two tubes, known as ureters, while the urethra takes the urine from the bladder to the external genitalia.
Most bladder cancers are treatable as they are diagnosed at an early stage. However, recurrences are common in bladder cancer despite successful management. This is why cancer bladder cancer needs regular follow-up with an oncologist and urologist even years after treatment.
What are the 5 signs of bladder cancer?
Bladder cancer is more common in men; however, women are not averse to developing it. The warning signs to watch out for include:
- Blood in the urine: hematuria is often the earliest symptom to appear in bladder cancer. Even before gross hematuria appears, there can be microscopic hematuria with presence of red blood cells in the urine, detectable only on complete examination of the urine for some unrelated disorder. Urine looks brownish or darker than usual in the presence of blood. Women mostly attribute this symptom to menstruation and ignore it. However, if someone experiences hematuria, they should immediately seek help from their healthcare provider.
- Unexplained pain: pain is a part of advanced disease. When the cancer spreads to involve the pelvic organs, and the spine, it causes pain. Patients may experience pain on urination, sitting or standing, with constant back pain. Bone pain may develop when the spine is involved, and there is widespread metastasis. At this stage, there may also be swelling in the legs, due to involvement of the lymph nodes.
- Unexplained weight loss: is also a sign of advanced disease. Patients lose weight as the cancerous cells take up energy to multiply. This is accompanied by appetite suppression and fatigue. Unexplained weight loss is a generic symptom of many types of cancer that warrants a complete examination. There are many causes of appetite suppression; therefore, one shouldn’t assume the worse without evidence.
- Urinary Tract Infection-like symptoms: because of the constant irritation of the bladder wall by the cancerous growth, there may be recurrent urination, with urinary urgency and pain with urination. Thus, patients often mistake these symptoms for a urinary tract infection (UTI). If there is persistence of such symptoms in the absence of fever, or despite use of antibiotics, talk to your healthcare provider about a thorough examination.
- Postmenopausal uterine bleeding: post-menopausal bleeding is never a good sign. In events that this occurs, its best to get it checked-out to find the underlying cause.
What are the risk factors of bladder cancer?
Age: the risk of bladder cancer rises with increasing age. Studies show that than 70 percent cases of bladder cancer occur in people above the age of 65 years.
Smoking: increases the risk of bladder cancer due to the carcinogens in the smoke that are cleared by the kidneys. These carcinogens are stored in the bladder where they irritate the lining of the bladder and cause uncontrolled growth of the lining epithelial cells.
Gender: the risk of cancer is four times higher in men, in comparison to women. However, the mortality is higher in women due to bladder cancer. Because of the decreased prevalence of bladder cancer in women, they often get diagnosed quite late.
Chemicals: people working in industries like leather, paint, dye and rubber are exposed to the chemicals that irritate the bladder, causing dysplasia and metaplasia.
Chronic bladder irritation: kidney stones and recurrent infections irritate the bladder and predispose to squamous cell carcinoma of the bladder.
History of chemotherapy: in particular patients who are treated with cyclophosphamide have higher risk of developing bladder cancer. Therefore, patients need constant vigilance even after their treatment duration is over, and checkup by healthcare experts like Best urologist in Karachi to detect any dysplastic changes in the bladder wall.