The facts about bladder cancer
When tumours grow in the lining of the bladder or spread into the bladder muscle, this is known as bladder cancer. Bladder cancer is more common in males than females but it isn’t exclusive to men and is more likely to occur over the age of 75. Although bladder cancer rates have fallen by 39% since 1990 and are predicted to keep falling, bladder cancer is still the 10th most common UK cancer and there were 7,300 diagnoses in 2015.
Early signs of bladder cancer
The symptoms of bladder cancer may also be symptoms of other health issues such as infections of the urinary tract or an enlarged prostate and it is important to visit your GP as soon as you notice any of the below early signs of bladder cancer:
- The presence of red or brown blood in your urine
- The urgent need to pass urine
- The frequent need to pass urine
- Any discomfort when passing urine
Bladder cancer diagnosis
Once your GP has discussed the symptoms of bladder cancer with you in detail, he or she will eliminate other possible causes of your discomfort through a series of tests. Bladder cancer diagnosis can be obtained via the following tests:
- An ultrasound scan of your abdomen area to check the workings of your urinary system
- A CT urogram to determine the source of the blood that is present in your urine
- An intravenous urogram to check for signs of a blockage or irregularities on the bladder wall or ureter (the ducts between the kidneys and bladder)
- A cystoscopy to examine the inside of your bladder. Sometimes a small tissue sample or biopsy is taken at the same time as a cystoscopy. Both the cystoscopy and biopsy are usually performed under a general anaesthetic
Bladder cancer risk factors
You are more likely get bladder cancer if you are a male over the age of 75 but there are other risk factors for bladder cancer, which include,
- Working with certain chemicals
- Radiotherapy treatment to the pelvic areas for other cancers
- Diabetes (or drugs to treat type 2 diabetes)
- A diet lacking in fruit and vegetables
Types of bladder cancer
- Transitional cell bladder cancer – The cells that make up the bladder lining are called transitional cells; these cells can develop problems through contact with cancer-causing waste products in the urine. Most bladder cancer cases are transitional bladder cancer but these are divided into different types i.e. superficial (early) bladder cancers and invasive bladder cancers. Specialist tests will help diagnose which type of bladder cancer you have.
- Squamous cell bladder cancer – In the UK, only 1 in 5 diagnosed bladder cancers are squamous cell cancers. These flat cells line your body organs and are a bit like skin.
- Adenocarcinoma – Adenocarcinoma is very rare in the UK but is aggressive. It starts in the mucus-making gland cells that form part of the bladder lining.
- Sarcomas – If a cancer starts within the bladder muscle, it is known as a sarcoma. Sarcomas can also occur in other parts of the body.
Bladder cancer treatment
Your bladder cancer treatment will depend on the type and stage of your bladder cancer as well as the risk of your cancer spreading or returning, the number, size and grade of your tumours and whether or not this is your first cancer diagnosis.
- Treatment for bladder cancer that has not spread into the muscle layer
- Low risk – TURBT (transurethral resection or tumour removal), which is performed under general anaesthetic and followed up with a single dose of chemotherapy.
- Intermediate risk – at least 6 chemotherapy doses
- High-risk – two TURBT operations followed by treatment, which might include bladder removal
- Treatment for bladder cancer that has spread into the muscle layer – There are different treatment options for muscle invasive bladder cancer these include chemotherapy (which may be recommended before other treatments), bladder removal (cystectomy) and radiotherapy using an external radiosensitiser combined with radiotherapy in the form of a medicine.
The side effects of radiotherapy in bladder cancer treatment
Radiotherapy is an effective bladder cancer treatment that destroys cancer cells using high-energy waves. This treatment can include some of the following side effects.
- Vaginal or erectile issues
- General weakness
- More frequent passing of urine
- Skin soreness and discolouration
Bladder cancer prognosis
Bladder cancer survival rate statistics are available but it is important to remember that these can’t accurately predict an individual’s experience of bladder cancer. The earlier the diagnosis the better the survival rate so it is important to look out for the early signs of bladder cancer and visit your GP at an early date.
- Over 70% of people with a diagnosis of bladder cancer survive for 1 year or more
- Over 50% of people with a diagnosis of bladder cancer survive for 5 years or more
- About 50% of people with a diagnosis of bladder cancer survive for 10 years or more
If you are experiencing skin discomfort following radiotherapy treatment for bladder cancer, our cooling and soothing R1 and R2 gels can help. Applied as directed these can relieve pain, sooth, hydrate & reduce redness to damages skin making your progress through radiotherapy treatment easier.