Bladder Cancer Warning Signs and What to Do About Them

by Nancy

Your bladder plays an important role in your urinary system. Your urinary system is responsible for filtering out waste products from your blood. The system is made up of urothelial cells, which are also found in your kidneys. If you develop bladder cancer, your cells start to grow out of control. Bladder cancer commonly starts with the urothelial cells, but if left untreated, it can travel to other parts of your body as well. Despite the name, bladder cancer can actually occur in other portions of your body, such as your kidneys and ureters.

Patient hand pressing emergency nurse call button with selective focus point

There are many negative side effects associated with bladder cancer. What you experience partially depends on the type of bladder cancer. There are three different types of bladder cancer, transitional cell, squamous cell and adenocarcinoma. More information about diagnosing and treating bladder cancer is detailed below.

Bladder Cancer Warning Signs

The most common early warning sign for bladder cancer is blood in your urine. This is known as hematuria. The exact level of blood may vary, but there is at least enough to cause the color of your urine to change. The most common colors or orange and pink, though in severe cases, it may appear dark red. The color your urine may stay the same, but there are small amounts of blood visible. Blood in your urine does not automatically mean bladder cancer. There are several kidney conditions that also share this symptom. The moment you notice blood in your urine, you must contact your doctor.

In the earliest stages, there is normally small amounts of blood. As the cancer progresses, blood becomes more common, and you may start to experience pain when you urinate. There are several other symptoms as well to keep an eye for. Having to urinate more than usual, or experience a burning sensation when you urinate may also be signs of bladder cancer. Another early warning sign is when you feel the need to urinate shortly after taking a drink, even when your bladder is not full. A weak urine stream or inability to urinate may also be early indicators of bladder cancer.

There are a few other symptoms to keep an eye for, but these are much more common in advanced cases. Some examples include consistently feeling tired or weak, significant weight loss or changes in your appetite, swelling along your feet and lower back pain on one side of your body.

Bladder Cancer Risk Factors

As of writing, the exact cause of bladder cancer is not known. However, researchers have identified several risk factors that increase your chances of developing bladder cancer. Some of these risk factors are shared with other types of factors. For example, your risk of developing cancer is significantly increased if you smoke. One study showed smoking was responsible for nearly half the cases of bladder cancer in both men and women. You are also three times as likely to develop bladder cancer compared to non-smokers.

Working with certain chemicals can also increase the chances of developing bladder cancer, especially if you do not follow proper safety precautions. Aromatic amines, which are commonly used in the dye industry, are considered risk factors. Diesel fumes and over exposure to organic chemicals are also risk factors.

The older you are, the greater the chances of developing bladder cancer. In most cases, bladder cancer occurs in individuals over the age of 55, but it is possible to develop it at a younger age. It is much more common in men than women. There is also a genetic risk associated with bladder cancer. If someone in your family developed bladder cancer, you have a higher chance of developing it later in life.

Diagnosing and Treating Bladder Cancer

The earlier you detect bladder cancer, the easier it is to treat. There are several different ways to screen for bladder cancer. The most common is through a urinalysis. This is a simple test, normally performed during a general check-up. If you are lucky, a urinalysis can detect the cancer before you start showing symptoms. Some of the newest tests also look for additional substances in your urine that indicate cancer. In more severe cases, doctors may perform either a cystoscopy or biopsy to view your bladder. Certain X-Rays and CT scans can also detect bladder cancer.

Bladder cancer treatment depends on the severity. In the early stages, a surgeon may be able to remove the tumor from your bladder, or treat the cancer with chemotherapy or immunotherapy to reduce the cancer cells. In more advanced cases, your doctor may remove a section of your bladder, in addition to chemotherapy treatment. In the most advanced cases, you may lose your entire bladder. In these circumstances, you must undergo surgery to develop a new way for urine to exit your body.

Post Treatment

Unfortunately, not all treatments eliminate bladder cancer. If you catch it early, you have a greater chance of removing the cancer entirely. In many cases, patients experience cancer relapses. The cancer may even appear in different parts of your body. Follow-up care is an important part of post cancer treatment. Your doctor will schedule many tests and lab visits to see whether the cancer has returned. If you experience any of the early warning symptoms, schedule a meeting with your doctor immediately. If the cancer does return, you may go through the same treatment plan. If it worsens, your doctor may choose a different treatment option.