Bladder Cancer


Bladder cancer is a perfect example of a disease that, if caught early, has a high survival rate. By learning about its symptoms, you can help ensure that your doctor runs necessary tests to catch it early. A delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosis can significantly reduce the likelihood of effective treatment.

According to National Cancer Institute estimates, bladder cancer will be the fifth most commonly occurring cancer in the United States in 2016. About 77,000 cases will be diagnosed, and about 16,000 people die from the disease. Of the top ten cancers, it is the seventh most deadly. Because it can be detected early with proper medical attention, it is a very treatable form of cancer. For that reason alone, it is important that you learn about the disease and its symptoms.

The Bladder

The bladder is an organ of the body situated in the pelvic area. The kidneys produce urine, which is collected by the bladder through tubes known as ureters. The urine is then released from the body through the urethra. These organs and connecting tubes are generally referred to as the urinary tract. The bladder wall has four layers: 1) an inner lining, 2) connective tissue, 3) muscle, and 4) fat. Typically, cancer cells form in the inner lining and later invade the other layers if not treated.

Types of Bladder Cancer

Nine out of ten bladder cancers are transitional cell carcinoma. This cancer affects the inner lining of the bladder. Once detected, it can be further classified as either non-invasive or invasive. In non-invasive bladder cancer, cells are still confined to the inner lining. This is also referred to as superficial bladder cancer. In invasive bladder cancer, the abnormal cells have begun to spread into the connective tissue or muscle layers.

There are two types of tumors that develop in the transitional cells: papillary and flat. Papillary tumors protrude from the lining into the hollow of the bladder and do not normally grow deeper into the bladder wall. These are classified as non-invasive and can be successfully treated. Flat tumors, on the other hand, grow laterally within the lining and may grow into the connective tissue layer. Thus, it can be considered either invasive or non-invasive, depending on whether it moves further into the wall of the bladder.

Other bladder cancers are less prevalent. Squamous cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma, and sarcoma are all invasive types of cancer that only occur in about one percent of bladder cancers. They are more common in other parts of the world.

Causes and Risk Factors

Bladder cancer is more likely to occur in white men over the age of 40. There are no known causes, only factors that increase its risk. The common theme of risk factors is cell damage in the inner lining. Because the kidneys filter harmful chemicals from the blood and deposit them in the urine, they pass through the bladder. Tobacco, for example, contains various harmful chemicals that reach the urinary tract. Exposure to certain chemicals also results in their collection in the urine. Arsenic and chemicals used in the production of dyes, rubber, leather, textiles, and paints have been determined to increase the risk of bladder cancer.

Prior cancer treatments are also thought to increase the risk. Cyclophosphamide, a cancer treatment drug, and radiation treatment in the pelvic area both are risk factors. People who have taken pioglitazone for diabetes are at an increased risk as well. Chronic urinary tract infections and inflammation are physical conditions that are known risk factors. Any time cells are prompted to react to changing conditions, there is the risk that cell mutation will go wrong and cancer cells may develop.

While bladder cancer is treatable, it is also likely to recur. Superficial cancer is the most treatable but also the most likely to come back. Other, more aggressive and invasive bladder cancers, often recur after successful treatment. Survivors of any bladder cancer should undergo follow-up testing to detect recurring cancer cells. The frequency of testing should depend on whether the cancer was aggressive or superficial. Recurring aggressive bladder cancers must be detected early to be successfully treated again.

Symptoms and Misdiagnosis

Fortunately, symptoms of bladder cancer normally show up early. The vast majority of bladder cancers start in the inner lining, which is in direct contact with the urine that exits the body. Consequently, issues with the urine that are caused by the cancer are detectable by the individual as well as treating physicians. Blood in the urine, as well as frequent or painful urination, are the typical first signs of bladder cancer.

If bladder cancer is not diagnosed and reaches an advanced stage, the symptoms become more acute. These symptoms include an inability to urinate, pain on one side of the lower back, loss of appetite, weight loss, swelling in the feet, and bone pain. Even then, the cure rate is as high as 80 percent in cases where the cancer has not reached the outer half of the muscle layer. It is critical that doctors examine the entire urinary tract if cancer is found in the bladder. Cancer that has not invaded beyond the inner layer of the bladder may still have travelled within the tract to the kidneys or the ureters.

Bladder cancer can often be misdiagnosed. Symptoms can be attributed to other causes such as urinary tract infections, kidney stone or bladder stones, or an enlarged prostate in men. This is where doctors make mistakes. For example, a patient who presents with recurring symptoms may be diagnosed as having chronic inflammation when in fact they have cancer tumors. They could, in fact, have both cancer tumors and a secondary infection. Doctors may treat the symptoms as a recurring inflammation or infection for some time before the right imaging tests are conducted.

What to Do About Misdiagnosis

By being proactive and asking questions, you can help keep your health care providers on track. And if your doctor delayed your diagnosis of bladder cancer or misdiagnosed your condition, you have the right to compensation. Your initial consultation is free, and you don’t pay anything if we don’t win your case.

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