It’s the sixth most common cancer diagnosed in the U.S. (the fourth most common for men), and while the number of cases has been rising, cure-rates are very good when the disease is diagnosed early.
The most important thing to know about bladder cancer is that smoking tobacco is the greatest risk factor for developing the disease. Smokers are twice as likely to get bladder cancer as non-smokers. Long-time smokers are at greater risk than short-timers who have quit: studies show that in the first four years after a smoker quits, his risk of developing bladder cancer decreases by 40 percent.
People who come in contact with toxic chemicals in the workplace are at higher risk too. This includes workers in the dye, rubber, chemical, metal, textile, and leather industries, as well as hairdressers, machinists, printers, painters, and truck drivers. If they’re also smokers, the risk is compounded and their need for vigilance increased.
Bladder cancer is now the sixth most common cancer in the US. There has been a steady climb in the number of diagnosed cases (70,000 in 2010) over the last 20 years, but early detection and treatment advances have actually brought the death rate down.
The first indication of bladder cancer is usually the appearance of blood in the urine (hematuria). There may be enough blood to notice a reddish cast to the fluid or it may occur in microscopic quantities visible only through a laboratory test. Other possible symptoms include:
• Feeling an urgent need to empty your bladder
• Having to empty your bladder more often than you used to
• Feeling the need to empty your bladder without results
• Needing to strain (bear down) when you empty your bladder
• Feeling pain when you empty your bladder
Of course, these symptoms—as well as hematuria—could be caused by other health problems, but it’s crucial that they not be ignored. Be it bladder cancer or some other condition, early diagnosis can be key to successful treatment.
Making the diagnosis
At Premier Medical Group we begin the diagnosis process by having our lab check the patient’s urine for blood, cancer cells, and other signs of disease. The physician will perform a cystoscopy, using a thin, lighted tube (a cystoscope) to look directly into the bladder. At the same time he can take tissue samples (biopsy) to be examined by our pathologist for cancer cells. In most cases, a biopsy is the only sure way to tell whether cancer is present.
If bladder cancer is detected, treatment options include surgery, chemotherapy, biological therapy, and radiation therapy. To decide on the best treatment for a patient, the physician takes into account the grade of the tumor (which tells how fast it’s likely to grow or spread), the stage of the cancer, and the patient’s general health.
The specialists at Premier Medical Group are committed to caring for their bladder cancer patients every step of the way.