The lower urinary tract consists of the bladder, urethra, and, for men, the prostate. The bladder's role is pivotal in urine storage before it exits the body via the urethra. However, when cells within the bladder's inner wall uncontrollably grow and multiply, bladder cancer arises.

How Bladder Cancer Develops

Bladder cancer forms a malignant tumour from the rapid growth of inner wall cells. If aggressive, it can invade deeper bladder layers or even spread to organs like the lymph nodes, bones, lungs, and liver.

Bladder Cancer Symptoms

  1. Painless hematuria or blood in urine.
  2. Irregular bladder habits: pain during urination, frequent urination, or urinary incontinence.
  3. Symptoms from cancer spread: lower back pain, bone pain, swollen feet, enlarged lymph nodes, fatigue, reduced appetite, and weight loss.

Stages of Bladder Cancer

Stage 1

Cancer is limited to the bladder's inner lining.

Stage 2

Cancer has penetrated the bladder wall.

Stage 3

Cancer has spread to surrounding tissues.

Stage 4

Cancer has reached lymph nodes and other organs.

Bladder Cancer Treatment Options

Early Stage

A standard treatment is the transurethral resection of bladder tumour (TURBT). This procedure diagnoses and removes the cancerous tissue using a cystoscope.

Invasive Cancer

For those with a more advanced stage, total bladder removal combined with chemotherapy/radiation therapy may be required. In these cases, a new urinary tract needs to be constructed. Options involve using a part of the intestine to create a reservoir or passage for urine to exit the body.

Overview of Bladder Cancer Types

Over 90% of bladder cancer cases arise from transitional cell carcinoma or urothelial carcinoma. Other types include squamous cell carcinoma and other rare forms.

Risk Factors

  1. Smoking, including secondhand exposure.
  2. Chronic exposure to specific chemicals.
  3. Persistent bladder inflammation.
  4. Genetic factors or a family history.
  5. Some chemotherapy drugs.

Bladder Cancer Detection and Diagnosis

Many patients with early-stage bladder cancer notice blood in their urine. Preliminary tests include urinalysis, cystoscopy, and diagnostic radiology such as ultrasound and CT scans.

Self-Care for Bladder Cancer Patients

Although bladder cancer detection is often in the early stages, recurrence is common. Those diagnosed, especially with stage 1 bladder cancer, must take good care of their health, avoid risk factors, and adhere to regular follow-up examinations.