What is bladder cancer?
Bladder cancer occurs when there are abnormal, cancerous cells growing in the bladder. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), 70,980 cases of bladder cancer will be diagnosed in the US in 2009.
Bladder cancer affects men about three times more often than women, and it occurs in Caucasians twice as often as in African Americans. The risk of bladder cancer increases with age – over 70 percent of people who are diagnosed with it are older than 65.
The bladder is a triangle-shaped, hollow organ located in the lower abdomen. It is held in place by ligaments that are attached to other organs and the pelvic bones. The bladder’s walls relax and expand to store urine, and contract and flatten to empty urine through the urethra. The typical healthy adult bladder can store up to two cups of urine for two to five hours
What causes bladder cancer?
While the exact causes of bladder cancer are not known, there are well-established risk factors for developing the disease. Risk factors for bladder cancer include the following:
- cigarette smoking : Cigarette smoking is a major risk factor for developing bladder cancer. Smoking causes about half of the deaths from bladder cancer among men, and less than one-third of bladder cancer deaths in women. The disease occurs in smokers twice as often as nonsmokers. Quitting smoking reduces the risk of bladder cancer, as well as several other types of cancer and diseases.
- occupational exposure : Certain occupations and work environments that expose workers to dyes and some organic chemicals appear to increase the risk for bladder cancer. Workers in the rubber, chemical, leather, textile, metal, and printing industries are exposed to substances such as aniline dye and aromatic amines that may increase their risk for bladder cancer. Other at-risk occupations include hairdressers, machinists, painters, and truck drivers (due to exposure to diesel fumes).
- chronic bladder irritation : Chronic bladder infections or bladder stones may be linked to certain types of bladder cancer.
- age : The risk for bladder cancer increases with age. Over 70 percent of people with bladder cancer are over age 65.
- gender : Bladder cancer occurs about three times more often in men than in women.
- race : Caucasians are twice as likely to develop bladder cancer as African-Americans and Hispanics. Asians have the lowest bladder cancer rates.
- personal history of bladder cancer : Individuals who have previously had bladder cancer have an increased risk of developing the disease again.
- family history : Individuals with family members who have had bladder cancer are more likely to develop the disease. Research is ongoing to determine specific genetic risks for bladder cancer.
- parasite infections : Infection with certain parasites found in tropical regions of the world, but not in the US, increases the risk of bladder cancer.
Treatment for bladder cancer:
Specific treatment for bladder cancer will be determined by your physician based on:
- your age, overall health, and medical history
- extent of the disease
- grade and stage of the cancer
- your tolerance of specific medicines, procedures, or therapies
- expectations for the course of the disease
- your opinion or preference
Most individuals with bladder cancer have superficial and non-invasive tumors. Treatment for these tumors is often very effective with an excellent prognosis. The remainder of bladder cancers invade deep into the bladder wall and muscle. There is a greater risk for metastasis into other tissues in these cases. Depending on the extent, bladder cancers may be managed with a single therapy or combination of treatments.