Bladder Cancer Testing
According to the American Cancer Society, there are an estimated 74,000 new cases of bladder cancer diagnosed each year and 16,000 subsequent deaths, 90% of all cases affecting those over the age of 55. Affecting the bladder and surrounding tissue, bladder cancer poses a serious health risk to those in their golden years.
Bladder Cancer Statistics
Bladder cancer is mainly the domain of men, on average, affecting males four times more than women. Despite this, the ACS estimates that nearly 18,000 woman will get bladder cancer in a given year. Men have nearly a 4% (1 out of 26) chance of developing some form of bladder cancer while women have little over a 1% (1 out of 90) chance.
What is Bladder Cancer?
Like most types of cancer, bladder cancer involves the out-of-control growth of cells. Cells in your body replicate to replace one another, but in the case of cancer, these cells replicate non-stop. Cancer cells can even invade other tissue.
In the case of bladder cancer, this ungoverned cellular growth starts within the inner most layer of the bladder, the urotheliam (transitional cells). From this layer, bladder cancer can spread to the Lamina propria (connective tissue, nerves and blood vessels surrounding the urotheliam), the Muscularis propria (a layer of muscle surrounding both the urotheliam and the musclaris propria), and finally into a layer of fatty tissue surrounding the three other layers creating the bladder wall. From here the cancer may spread to other parts of the body.
Types of Bladder Cancer
Transitional cell carcinoma (TCC):
Without a doubt the most common form of bladder cancer (90% of all bladder cancer cases are TCC). The name “transitional cell carcinoma” comes from the term urotheliam, also known as “transitional cells.” TCC has two distinct presentations, papillary or flat. With papillary, the cancer causes long tubular looking growths to form from the inner layer of the bladder wall, expanding into the center of the bladder (where urine is stored). With flat tumors, however, they sit almost flush with the other cells of the urotheliam. Either flat or papillary can be classified as invasive or non-invasive. If either tumor starts to spread into the outer layers of the bladder (lamina, muscularis, or the fatty protective tissue) the cancer is then invasive.
Squamous cell carcinoma:
A rare form of invasive cancer where cancerous cells resemble epithelial tissue.
Another form of invasive cancer similar to colon cancer.
Small cell carcinoma:
A fast growing form of cancer that affect endocrine cells.
A soft tissue cancer where tumors start in muscular tissue, in this case, the Muscularis propria.
Stages of Bladder Cancer
Cancer staging is a way to track the progression and often severity of a cancer. With bladder cancer there is a specific system called the TNM system. “T” is the length which the main Tumor has grown into the layers of the bladder wall (listed as a number between 0 and 4, T1-T4). “N” is used to indicate if the cancer has spread outside of the bladder and into adjacent lymph Nodes (N0-N3 depending on the areas and number of lymph nodes affected). And “M” is used to signal if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, called Metastasizing (M0 for no, M1 for yes). With the TNM system in place, there are four main stages of cancer, each with a different combination of T, N and M levels. For the sake of simplicity we’re going to ignore non-invasive TCC, Stage 0.
The cancer has started to infiltrate the lamina layer of the bladder wall (T1), with no lymph nodes affected (N0), and has not yet metastasized to other body parts (M0).
The cancer has reached the muscularis (T2) without effecting lymph nodes or metastasizing (N0, M0).
This stage still presents without lymph node involvement (N0) or metastasizing to other areas (M0). The cancer however has spread into the fatty layer protecting the bladder (T3) and in some cases into other surrounding organs contained in the abdomen (T4).
This stage is the most severe form of bladder cancer, there is no stage 5. Once the cancer has reached the abdominal wall under level T4 and/or the cancer has spread to lymph nodes (N1, N2, N4 or N4) and/or has metastasized (M1) to other body parts, bladder cancer is at its most severe.
Causes of Bladder Cancer
There are a number of suspected causes to bladder cancer, the most common is smoking. Smoking is said to be involved with over half of all cases of bladder cancer. Exposure to toxins from paints, hair products and fuel fumes have also been said to be a major contributing factor in developing bladder cancer.
If you have chronic kidney infections or even reoccurring urinary tract infections (UTIs)—which can lead to kidney infections—you have a greater chance of developing this form of cancer.
Bladder Cancer Symptoms
Bladder cancer can present with several noticeable and some not so noticeable symptoms. Some common symptoms include:
- Hematuria (blood in urine resulting in dark urine). Often the first sign.
- Urge to urinate frequently (more than usual)
- Pain/Burning urinating
- Urinary incontinence (bladder cancer can lead to tumors throughout the urinary system including kidneys, even the urethra)
- Lower back pain
- Bone pain
- Swelling of lower extremities like the feet
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
If you have any of these symptoms go see your doctor, early detection of cancer is always best. A number of tests are likely to be performed in order to rule out or diagnose cancer.
- Cystoscopy (visual inspection of the bladder like colonoscopy)
- Contrast X-ray
- CT scan
- Bone scan (if cancer is suspected to have metastasized to bones)
Bladder cancer is not a death sentence. If detected early—even relatively early—you likely stand a good chance of survival. The worst thing you can do is ignore symptoms regardless of what they may be, your health is in your hands.
Request more information about bladder cancer testing today. Call or contact us online.