About the Condition
Bladder cancer occurs when the genetic material of cells in the bladder become damaged or changed, producing mutations that affect normal cell growth and division. The abnormal cells then replicate, causing cancer. If undetected, the cancer can spread beyond the bladder and move to other parts of the body. About 10,000 people are diagnosed with bladder cancer every year*. The condition is more common in men, who are four times more likely to have bladder cancer than women.
While the precise causes of this disease remain unknown, most cases of bladder cancer appear to be caused by exposure to harmful substances that lead to abnormal changes in the bladder’s cells over the course of many years, and this is thought to be why the condition is more common in older adults, with the average age at diagnosis currently estimated to be 68*. Substances that are thought to trigger bladder cancer include:
- Tobacco smoke, which is thought to be a factor in almost half of all cases of bladder cancer
- Certain industrial chemicals, thought to account for around 25% of cases*. These substances are most often involved in the manufacture of items such as:
- Tanned leather
Some non-manufacturing jobs have also been linked to an increased risk of bladder cancer. These include taxi or bus drivers as a result of their regular exposure to the chemicals present in diesel fumes.
The most common symptom of bladder cancer is blood in your urine, which is usually painless. Other symptoms include:
- Increased frequency of urination
- A sudden urge to urinate
- A burning sensation when passing urine
- Pelvic pain
- Bone pain
- Unexplained weight loss
- Leg swelling
Some people find it embarrassing to talk about these sorts of symptoms, but if you have ever seen blood in your urine, even if it was only once, or if you have any concerns about similar symptoms, it is essential that you see your doctor at once, as your chances of recovery are much higher if your cancer is diagnosed early.
If you’re referred to CCL for diagnosis, your consultant or oncologist will advise you on which tests are relevant to your individual symptoms. These tests can involve:
- Urine sampling
- A Cystoscopy, which is where a cytoscope (a thin tube with a camera and light at the end) is inserted into the bladder through the urethra, in order to examine it. This procedure is done under local anaesthetic, and is usually quick and painless.
- A biopsy, where cell samples are taken for examination for signs of cancer
- A Computerised Tomography (CT) scan, which shows a 3D image of the area being looked at
- An Intravenous (IV) Urogram, which is an X-ray taken after dye is injected into the bloodstream
Once diagnosed, bladder cancer can be classified by how far it has spread. There are two different categories of bladder cancer:
- Superficial or non-muscle-invasive bladder cancer – where the cancerous cells are contained inside the lining of the bladder. This is the more common type, accounting for 70% of cases*
- Muscle-invasive bladder cancer – where the cancerous cells have spread beyond the lining of the bladder to the muscles. This type is less common and has a higher chance of spreading to other parts of the body.
Identifying the specific type and stage of bladder cancer is important and will help your treatment team to create the best plan of action for your individual needs and circumstances.
At CCL, patients with bladder cancer are treated by a team of different specialists, called a Multi-Disciplinary Team, or MDT. This team works together to create a treatment plan to suit the individual needs of the patient. Treatments for bladder cancer vary depending on the type and severity of the case. Options include:
- Surgery, which could involve:
- Removal of the cancerous cells, leaving the bladder intact
- Removal of the bladder (a radical cystectomy) and subsequent reconstruction of the bladder
- Radiotherapy, which is where high-energy rays are used to destroy the cancer cells.
- Chemotherapy, which involves the use of chemical agents which are toxic to cancer cells, destroying them and preventing them from spreading to different areas. This can be given by injection or in tablet form.
Cancer doesn’t just leave a physical impact on an individual, it can have a huge emotional effect as well. Cancer and its treatment can be overwhelming, causing a wide variety of emotions, and it is important to remember that there is no right or wrong response. Reactions vary hugely from person to person, and most people find that it becomes easier to cope when they’re given additional support, so that’s what we do.
At CCL we provide support that caters to both the physical and emotional needs of the patient, before, during and after treatment. We offer a wide range of services for patients, as well as their loved ones, designed to make a very difficult time as easy as possible, and to give our patients the best treatment and support possible.
Because treatment for bladder cancer can involve the removal of part or all of the bladder, patients may find that they experience additional symptoms and side effects following surgery. We have experts on hand to help you to adjust, and to offer you all the support you need at this time.
Bladder Cancer Consultants