The urinary tract is a remarkable system that functions as the body’s drainage system for extra fluids and wastes known as urine. There are conditions that impact the ability of this drainage system to work properly, however, with one of the more serious conditions being bladder cancer. Bladder cancer is the fourth most common form of cancer found in men, as 1 in every 28 will develop it during their lifetime. The chances of a woman developing bladder cancer are much less likely.
What Does the Bladder Do?
The bladder is a muscular sac that when empty is shaped like a pear. The kidneys empty urine through two tubes called ureters into the bladder. As the urine fills in the bladder, the muscles are relaxed, allowing it to stretch and expand. Once the bladder is filled, nerves send a signal to your brain that you need to urinate. The muscles contract and squeeze the urine out of the bladder. As the urine drains from the bladder, it shrinks back to its original size.
Bladder cancer forms when changed or mutated cells that aren’t destroyed by the immune system grow out of control and collect together in the bladder. Most bladder cancers begin in the inner linings of the bladder, and those affected likely don’t notice anything until it begins to spread into and through the remaining layers. These tumors impact the function and effectiveness of the bladder and thus the urinary tract, and can spread to other organs if not diagnosed and treated quickly.
What Causes Bladder Cancer?
While everyone is at potential risk of developing bladder cancer, there are likely causes and risk factors that can increase these odds for some individuals. One of the most significant risk factors for bladder cancer is smoking. Smoking causes about 50% of all cases in both men and women. If you ever needed another reason to quit smoking, this statistic should nudge you in that direction. As such, the most important thing you can do to prevent bladder cancer (and some other cancers, for that matter), is to stop smoking.
Other risk factors include, but are not limited to:
- Exposure to certain chemicals and gases in the workplace
- Certain medications or herbal supplements
- Drinking water that contains arsenic
- Not drinking enough fluids every day
Unfortunately, there are some risk factors that you can’t change, such as one’s age and race. Bladder cancer is most likely to develop in men who are white and over the age of 55. Genetic traits and other deformities of the bladder can also play a role in your risk. If you fit into any of these categories, and have noticed changes in your urine or discomfort in the urination process, contact us and schedule a visit where we can address these concerns.
What are the Symptoms Of Bladder Cancer?
As is the case with most types of cancer, early diagnosis increases your chance of successful treatment. One of the most common symptoms of bladder cancer is finding blood in the urine. Blood isn’t always visible, and blood that is visible doesn’t always mean you have bladder cancer. Regardless, it is important to always have it checked out by a doctor. Bladder cancer can also cause changes in urination. These changes can range from a difficulty to urinate, pain during urination, or even an increased frequency in urinating. Symptoms of an advanced stage of bladder cancer can include an inability to urinate, pain in your bones or on one side of your back, and swollen feet.
While bladder cancer can come as a shocking diagnosis, there are treatment options available. As mentioned before, early detection is the key to less invasive measures and successful treatment. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms or have concerns about the function of your urinary tract, please schedule a visit.