By Dr. Vikas Agarwal, Urology
The bladder is the organ which holds the urine before it is drained out of the body. This organ is a balloon shaped organ which is located in the pelvic area. Like most forms of cancer, bladder cancer also starts off with the cells within the organ start mutating and not dying resulting in the buildup of abnormal cells.
Symptoms of Bladder Cancer:
1. Haematuria or the presence of blood in the urine – This is one of the most common symptoms of bladder cancer. The urine may vary in color from light to dark red although clear urine can also have blood which can only be detected under a microscope.
2. Frequent and painful urination – Changes in the usual pattern of urination along with other symptoms may be signs of bladder cancer. Some of these are:
a) Very frequent urination
b) Having a very weak stream during urination
c) The urge to urinate even when the bladder is not full
d) Painful or burning sensation while urinating
Although these symptoms are common with urinary tract infections, they may also be signs of bladder cancer and it is best for you to go to your doctor to get it checked.
Other Symptoms – Some of the other symptoms may include:
I. Back or pelvic pain in the area surrounding the bladder
II. Being tired or weak without an apparent reason
III. Feet swelling up
IV. Painful bones in some cases
V. Inability to urinate in some cases
Causes of Bladder Cancer:
Bladder Cancer is primarily of three types and their causes differ. They are:
- Transitional Cell Carcinoma – This is the most common type of bladder cancer and is primarily caused by lifestyle problems such as smoking, radiation or chemical exposure.
- Squamous Cell Carcinoma – This is a form of cancer that occurs as a reaction to a parasitic infection within the body.
- Adenocarcinoma – A rare form of bladder cancer, this is also caused by radiation or chemical exposure.
Surgery For Bladder Cancer -
Surgery is the removal of the tumor and some surrounding healthy tissue during an operation. There are different types of surgery for bladder cancer. Surgical options to treat bladder cancer include:
Transurethral bladder tumor resection (TURBT) - This procedure is used for diagnosis and staging, and for treatment as well. For people with non-muscle-invasive bladder cancer, TURBT eliminates the cancer. During TURBT, a surgeon inserts a cystoscope through the urethra into the bladder. The surgeon then removes the tumor using a tool with a small wire loop, a laser, or fulguration (high-energy electricity). The patient is given an anesthetic, medication to block the awareness of pain, before the procedure begins.
Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) - The standard immunotherapy drug for bladder cancer is a weakened bacterium called bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG), which is similar to the bacteria that causes tuberculosis. BCG is placed directly into the bladder through a catheter. This is called intravesical therapy. BCG attaches to the inside lining of the bladder and stimulates the immune system to destroy the tumor. BCG can cause flu-like symptoms, chills, fatigue, mild fever, a burning sensation in the bladder, and bleeding from the bladder.
Interferon (Roferon-A, Intron A, Alferon) is another type of immunotherapy that can be given as intravesical therapy. It is sometimes combined with BCG if using BCG alone does not help treat cancer.