Bladder cancer, as the term implies is the cancer attacking the bladder, an organ that stores urine generated by kidneys. It generally starts with the cells lining the inside part of the bladder as a result of prolonged irritation and inflammation. This could be either superficial, restricting itself to the cells lining the bladder walls or invasive type which protrudes deep in to the muscular tissue affecting the surrounding tissues like the vagina and uterus in women and prostate gland in men. Risk factors that increase the incidence of the disease in some people are not clearly known. But it is reported that people above the age of 40, alcoholics, workers who work in the midst of carcinogens, cancer causing agents and those with a family history of the disease are among the high risk group.
It is hard to distinguish bladder cancer symptoms from that of the symptoms seen in case of bladder infections, benign tumors or bladder stones. Hence, it is essential to check with the doctor if anything smells foul. Symptoms that need attention are blood in the urine, pain while urinating and urge to urinate without any results.
Initial diagnosis involves physical examination followed by some lab test. Physical examination includes a rectal or vaginal examination. Lab tests involve examining urine for the presence of blood, cancer cells and infectious agents. If anything seems suspicious then the doctor orders for biopsy where a tissue sample is removed for examination. Presence of cancer cells in the tissue sample confirms bladder cancer. Tissue sample is collected with the help of cytoscope, a thin lighted tube inserted through urethra. In some cases the entire cancerous tissue is removed with the help of cytoscope completing both diagnosis as well as treatment.
Stage of the cancer is determined basing on the extent of the affected area.
Stage 0: It is the starting stage where the superficial layers are infected.
Stage 1: Cancer cells have spread deep into the inner layers of the bladder.
Stage 2: Inner muscles of the bladder are also involved.
Stage 3: The disease spreads to the surrounding tissues like that of the vagina in females and prostrate in men.
Stage 4: This is the stage where you are in deep trouble with cancer cells attacking the abdominal wall. Cancer cells spread to other lymph nodes in the body and may even spread to distant organs like that of the lungs.
Before your doctor begins treatment it is essential to have a second opinion regarding the disease diagnosis and conformation about the stage of the disease. The method of treatment varies basing on the severity of the disease and the patient health status.
Surgical Procedure: If the cancer is in stage 0 with just the superficial layers being infected then the surgeon removes them by inserting a cytoscope in to the bladder through urethra. If a large part of the bladder is involved urinary bladder may be removed and an alternative arrangement for urine collection is made.
Radiation Therapy: This aims at killing the cancer cells. This is done as a replacement to surgery or as a post surgery measure to kill any viable cancerous cells. It is done either by implanting a small instrument into the bladder or by external application of radiations at specific dosage. External application of radiations protects normal cells.
Chemotherapy: This is used either as a standalone treatment to kill the cancer cells using drugs or as a supportive treatment after surgery or radiation therapy.
Cancer patients should consume a well balanced diet at the time of treatment to keep up with the treatment and have enough energy to meet the body needs.