Urinary Bladder Cancer is a type of cancer where the proliferation of cancer cells happens in the cells and tissues of the urinary bladder, a hollow muscular organ in the lower abdomen that stores urine after receiving it from the tubular ureters from either side.
Bladder Cancer usually begins in the urothelial cells, the ones which line the interiors of the bladder and the kidneys and ureters as well. Although this urethelial cancer may happen in the kidneys and ureters, it is more commonly diagnosed in the urinary bladder.
Bladder Cancer is usually categorised into 3 different types:
Transitional Cell Carcinoma
Also known as Urothelial Carcinoma, it is the most common type of bladder cancer that usually begins in the transitional cells which are present in the inner layer of the bladder. These cells have a unique feature wherein they can actually change the shape of their shape without becoming damaged.
This is a rare type of cancer which chiefly begins in the glandular cells of the bladder owing to long-term bladder irritation and inflammation.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
This form of cancer is another rare type and usually begins when the cancer forms in the thin, flat squamous cells within the bladder due to a long-term infection, inflammation or irritation in the urinary bladder.
Just like any other forms of cancer, the ultimate cause of bladder cancer is yet to be discovered, but it usually occurs when there is a change or mutation in the DNA of the cells that line the bladder. This mutation stimulates the cells to grow abnormally without dying and get accumulated to form tumorous structures eventually blocking the bladder and restricting normal urinary functions.
Certain causative factors that increase the risk of ureteral cancer includes:
Gender: Men are more prone to bladder cancer, than the female counterpart.
Age: Although it can occur at any age, the risk of ureteral cancer is more common in people of older age, especially the ones above 55.
Previous Cancer Conditions: Bladder cancer is more common in people previously diagnosed with kidney cancer or ureteral cancer or those who have underwent radiotherapy or chemotherapy.
Dietary Habits: Following a high fat diet with low fluid content can increase the risk of bladder cancer.
Smoking: People who have an unhealthy habit of smoking tobacco, cigars or pipes are more prone to this type of cancer due to accumulation of harmful chemicals in the urine. Apart from this, smoking also increases the risk of other forms of cancer like ureteral cancer, kidney cancer, urinary tract cancer as well.
Genetics: The chances of getting diagnosed with bladder cancer is more if you have a family history of ureteral cancer, i.e., if one of your blood relatives like a parent, sibling or child — has had a history of bladder cancer, you are more likely to have bladder cancer. Additionally, even a family history of Lynch syndrome, also known as hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC), can aggravate the chances of getting diagnosed with bladder cancer.
Exposure To Chemicals: Getting exposed to certain chemicals at the workplace like arsenic and chemicals used in the manufacture of dyes, rubber, leather, textiles and paint products can increase the risk of this type of cancer.
Chronic Bladder Inflammation: Repeated urinary infections or chronic inflammations of the urinary system like long-term use of catheter can make a person more prone to squamous cell bladder cancer. Even a parasitic infection called schistosomiasis can aggravate the chances of getting bladder cancer.
The common signs and symptoms of ureteral cancer include:
- Presence of blood in urine, i.e. hematuria
- Painful urination
- Urinary continence
- Frequent and urgent urination
- Back pain
- Abdominal pain
- Sudden loss of weight
- Bone pain
Diagnosis And Treatment
If you notice any of the above mentioned signs and symptoms, do consult a doctor right away to get diagnosed at the earliest. The doctor usually does a thorough physical check-up, acknowledges the patient’s past medical history followed by a few diagnostics including:
- Imaging techniques like Intravenous pyelogram, CT-scan, Magnetic resonance urogram, MRI-scan, PET-scan, Bone scan etc.
- Physical examination of the vagina or rectum to look for lumps that may indicate the spread of the cancer cells.
Staging Of Bladder Cancer
Before starting the treatment, the doctor usually stages the cancer to find out the extent and severity of the cancer cells.
Stage 0: The cancer cells haven’t spread past the lining of the bladder.
Stage 1: In this stage although the cancer cells have spread past the lining of the bladder, but it still haven’t metastasized in the muscular layer of the bladder.
Stage 2: Here, the cancer cells have readily spread to the layer of muscle in the bladder.
Stage 3: In this stage, the cancer cells have spread into the tissues that surround the bladder.
Stage 4: An advanced stage of bladder cancer, where the cancer cells have spread past the bladder to the nearby areas of the body and other distant organs.
The available treatment options usually depend upon the size of the tumor, exact location of the cancer, and the particular stage of the cancer. This includes:
- Chemotherapy including intravesical and systemic chemotherapy
- Radiation therapy
- Targeted therapy