Bladder is the organ present in the pelvis or lower abdomen that is responsible for collection and storage of urine, which is produced by kidneys. Cancer is said to be present when there is uncontrolled or unregulated growth of abnormal cells of any part of the body. Like any other organ of the body, bladder, too, is vulnerable to cancer.
Bladder cancer is the 2nd most common cancer of the urinary system. It is more common in men. Although it can occur at any age, it usually occurs after age 60.
Causes of Bladder Cancer
Although the exact cause for bladder cancer is not known, there are several well-known risk factors. Cigarette smoking and exposure to environmental chemicals (aromatic amines) used in the dye, paint, aluminium, textile, printing and rubber industries are the primary risk factors for bladder cancer. Higher intake of animal fats and fried meats is thought to increase the risk of bladder cancer.
Symptoms of Bladder Cancer
The main symptom of bladder cancer is blood in urine (hematuria). Other symptoms include increased frequency of urination and painful urination. The symptoms can be episodic or persistent. These symptoms occur also in many other kidney and urinary system diseases, particularly urinary tract infection, so you need to consult a doctor to undergo a thorough clinical examination and diagnostic tests to rule out more serious conditions like bladder cancer.
Blood in Urine (Hematuria)
This is a symptom in nearly 80-90% of people with bladder cancer. Typically it is painless. The blood may be grossly visible or microscopic. The urine might appear cola-coloured or bright red. If hematuria is microscopic, the appearance of urine may be normal, in which case urine needs to be examined with a microscope to detect the blood.
Hematuria is clinically significant when there is presence of 3 or more red blood cells per high-power field (HPF) in the sediment of 2-3 consecutive centrifuged, freshly voided, clean-catch, midstream urine specimens.
However, keep in mind that hematuria can occur due to a variety of causes other than bladder cancer. Some such causes are urinary tract infection, kidney stones, kidney tumours, prostate cancer, benign (noncancerous) bladder tumours, benign prostatic hypertrophy, certain kidney diseases, strictures or foreign bodies in urinary tract, anticoagulation therapy with warfarin, exercise and trauma.
Urgent or Frequent Urination
You may have a desire to pass small amounts of urine at shorter intervals of time. This can also happen during night (nocturia). Sometimes you can have an urgent need to empty your bladder. These symptoms can also be indicative of various other diseases like urinary tract infection, use of alcohol, anxiety, high intake of caffeine, enlargement or infection of prostate, use of diuretic medication, other pelvic tumours, stroke and other nervous system disorders.
Pain During Urination
You may feel discomfort or pain when passing urine (dysuria). The pain can be mild or severe.
Keep in mind that this can also occur in conditions like infection of urinary tract, kidney stones, prostate enlargement and inflammation of kidney or bladder.
Pain in the Loins
Pain is usually in the lower portion of the back in the flanks or loins. This is because the growing tumour of the bladder obstructs the flow of urine from kidney to bladder. It can also indicate kidney tumour, kidney trauma, inflammation of kidney and kidney stones.
Symptoms of Advanced Bladder Cancer
In more advanced bladder cancer, the nerves may be involved leading to pain that is referred to above the pubic region, groins, anus and into the thighs. There may be a mass in the pelvis due to the distension of bladder by the growing tumour. There may be swelling of legs.
If the cancer has spread to other parts of the body like lungs or bones there can be cough, blood in sputum or phlegm and bone pains. Weight loss and anemia as manifested by weakness, tiredness and fatigue may also be present.
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