Bladder cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer — approximately 68,000 adults in the United States are diagnosed each year. Although it can affect anyone, it most commonly affects the elderly. In fact, it’s extremely rare for this medical condition to develop before the age of 40, and Cancer.net indicates that the average age of diagnosis is 73.
Other risk factors include smoking, being male, being White, not staying hydrated, and having a family history of the disease.
Per Cancer.org, bladder cancer patients who seek medical assistance immediately have a 98 percent chance of surviving for at least five years. This survival rate drops to 77 percent when all bladder cancer patients are factored in. In other words, getting treatment during the first couple of stages can make a huge difference in the patient’s lifespan.
Early Signs of Bladder Cancer
There aren’t many early symptoms of bladder cancer, and all of them can occur in a variety of different medical conditions. Therefore, you’ll need to go to a doctor as soon as possible to get a correct diagnosis and start the necessary treatment.
Anyone who is experiencing the following could have bladder cancer, an infection, a benign tumor or bladder stones.
Pain While Urinating
BladderCancer.net reports that 20 to 30 percent of patients with bladder cancer will experience irritative bladder symptoms such as painful urination. However, this means that the majority of patients won’t suffer from this symptom, especially in the beginning stages. In other words, you cannot rely on painful urination as a prime indicator of bladder cancer.
Urine That’s Tinged Red or Deep Red
Blood in the urine (called hematuria) is one of the first signs of bladder cancer. If there is enough blood it can change the color of the urine to be orange, pink, or darker red. The early stages of bladder cancer can cause bleeding with little or no pain.
The need to urinate more often than usual may be a sign of bladder cancer. Increased urination can also be an early indicator of diabetes or a urinary tract infection (UTI).
Being Unable to Urinate Despite Feeling the Need To
Do you often feel like you need to urinate but have no luck when you go to the bathroom? This uncomfortable full bladder sensation is sometimes associated with bladder cancer.
If you have bladder cancer, you may also experience:
- Weight loss;
- Loss of appetite;
- Lower back pain (on one side);
- Feet swelling;
- Weakness or fatigue, and;
- Bone pain.
Bladder Cancer Treatments
As previously mentioned, the prognosis for patients with bladder cancer is very good if they get treatment immediately.
People who are in stage 0 of bladder cancer are often treated with Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) immunotherapy. BCG is typically given as a vaccine for tuberculosis, but Cancer.org indicates that it’s also a very viable treatment option for bladder cancer. Most people receive intravesical therapy for six weeks and experience minimal complications.
If your bladder cancer isn’t very advanced, you might be treated with mitomycin. This form of chemotherapy can be injected directly into the bladder, which tends to minimize or even eliminate many of the most common chemotherapy side effects.
Some people do develop a mild burning or feeling of irritation in the bladder. As long as the cancer is still in the early stages, a six-week course of intravesical chemotherapy is usually a very effective treatment.
If you’re in the later stages of bladder cancer, chemotherapy may need to be dispersed throughout your body via an injection into one of your veins. In many cases, this is done for a short period of time before or after surgery.
The American Cancer Society reports that getting chemotherapy before surgery is the most effective option for positive long-term results. Chemotherapy can cause several side effects, including fatigue, nausea, infections, and hair loss.
In this treatment, high-energy rays are utilized to destroy the cancerous cells in your body. Side effects can vary, but you might deal with bladder irritation, bleeding from the rectum, and fatigue. Depending on the severity of your bladder cancer, you may be able to get just one treatment. However, some people need as many as five treatments per week for a few weeks.
Radiation therapy is especially effective for treating localized tumors. In other words, if the cancer hasn’t spread out of your bladder, this may be a very good treatment option.
This surgical intervention diverts the flow of urine through a newly created abdominal opening. Many people will need to wear a pouch to collect the urine. As long as the surgery goes well, there are no notable side effects, although you will need to learn how to manage your pouch.
This is another treatment that involves altering the urine’s pathway out of the body. After this procedure has been completed, urine will begin passing through the colon and will be expelled via the anus. Over time, this could lead to malabsorption issues in some patients. The Indian Journal of Neurology also stated that this procedure could lead to several other complications, including metabolic problems, bone demineralization, and renal function impairments.
Depending on the severity of the cancer and what areas it has spread to, a cystoprostatectomy could be necessary. This surgery removes the prostate and bladder.
Although a cystoprostatectomy is an effective way to treat bladder cancer, it can also come with a long list of unwelcome side effects. For example, men will no longer be able to ejaculate, and both men and women may experience long-term sexual dysfunction. Per UCLA Health, it’s also common to have constipation during the immediate aftermath of the surgery.
Similar to a cystoprostatectomy, this treatment includes removing the urethra and the bladder. This method is effective, but you’ll need up to eight weeks of recovery time. There are also some serious complications that might develop during or after surgery such as blood clots, electrolyte abnormalities, and dehydration.
Removal of Abnormal Growth
Another surgical option is to remove the abnormal growth from the bladder. In some cases, this requires the complete removal of the bladder, but no other body parts will be removed. As long as the entire growth is removed, you should have a full recovery.
Early Treatment Could Save Your Life
By exploring all of your available treatment options as soon as concerning symptoms present themselves, you can keep bladder cancer from shortening your life. For instance, only two out of every 100 people will die from bladder cancer within five years of their diagnosis if they get treatment right away.
Keep in mind that every day you wait your odds of beating this type of cancer significantly lowers. For example, if your stage 0 cancer transitions to stage I, you’ll have an 88 percent chance of long-term survival. Sadly, if the cancer progresses to stage IV, your odds of living for another five years will drop to only 15 percent.
If you’ve been experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, your safest option is to discuss them with your doctor. Even if you don’t have bladder cancer, another serious issue could be causing your symptoms.