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Bladder cancer is defined as the uncontrolled proliferation of cells in the bladder. The bladder is an element of the excretory system that performs the function of collecting and removing urine from the body through the urethra. The cells that are abnormal in urinary bladder cancer are uroepithelial and can spread from the muscles to surrounding tissues through metastasis if not diagnosed and treated at an early stage.
Types of Bladder Tumors
There are two types of tumors that develop in the bladder: benign and malignant. More than 90 percent of all cases are malignant bladder tumors. However, this does not have to be a depressing outcome; with diagnosis and treatment, successful results can be achieved.
Bladder Cancer Symptoms
Symptoms of bladder cancer may vary and depend on the stage of the cancer and the person’s overall health.
The most common symptoms are:
- Difficulty urinating or not being able to urinate
- Pain, burning sensation when urinating
- Frequent and sudden urge to urinate
- Having blood in the urine
- Loss of appetite, weight loss and emaciation
- Problems with bowel control
- Body aches.
Risk factors for Bladder Cancer
Risk factors for bladder cancer are often related to a person’s age, gender, and ethnicity. It is more common in people over the age of 50. Also, contrary to popular belief, the incidence rate is higher in men than in women, but the death rate from bladder cancer is lower in men.
People with risk factors can be summarized as follows:
- Men over 50, white people, smokers
- People with a genetic predisposition
- People who are malnourished and have a low quality of life
- People with bladder stones
- Those who do not consume enough water daily
- Patients who have already received chemotherapy
- Those who are exposed to chemicals
- Those who frequently face the problem of chronic bladder infection.
Bladder Cancer Diagnosis and Examination Procedures
In case of problems with the bladder, a urologist is consulted. After listening to the patient’s complaints and examining him physically, the specialist requests various tests. The main methods used in the diagnostic phase, which are not applied to all patients, are as follows:
- Laboratory tests
- Cystoscopy (transurethral resection (TUR)
- Ultrasound examination
- Computed tomography, etc. Imaging
- Blood analysis, radiological examinations, urine cytology
- MRI urography.
In the third and fourth stages, bladder cancer can usually be detected by physical examination. But in any case, it is vital to perform the necessary tests and scans. Most often, the urinary tract and bladder are visualized with cystoscopy. If a suspicious formation is present, it is removed and a clinical examination is carried out. Imaging tests are used to examine the spread of cancer.
Treatment of Bladder Cancer
After the bladder tumor is found, the treatment phase is initiated. First, the type of tumor is determined. There are benign bladder tumors and malignant bladder tumors. The type of malignant tumor is also important for the method used for cancerous tumors. There are different types such as urothelial carcinoma or papillary urothelial carcinoma, Flat Carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma, low cell tumor or high cell tumor.
Another determining factor for treatment is the stage of bladder cancer. In the first stage, the cancer has not spread yet, which means it is only in the bladder. It can be treated with cystoscopy. In the second stage of bladder cancer, the cells have not spread to other organs, but they have spread more in the bladder compared to the first stage. In the third stage, the cancer cells have spread to the tissues around the bladder but have not yet metastasized to the surrounding organs. In the fourth stage, the cancer has spread to the pelvis and abdomen. The cancer may spread to organs such as the liver and even the lungs.
- Transurethral Resection: the transurethral resection method is used to treat cancerous tumors. The cystoscope is used to reach the urinary bladder and the cancer cells are destroyed.
- Cystectomy: It is performed in two ways; segmental and radical. The bladder may be partially or completely removed. Part of the urethra may be removed.
- Chemotherapy: it is a drug treatment. It is used when cancer has spread to distant organs or when there is a risk of metastasis. It is a frequently preferred method for patients who are not suitable for surgery.
- Immunotherapy: Immunotherapy is also a drug therapy. The aim is to strengthen the immune system. A drug is applied to the bladder, the active ingredient of which fights cancerous cells in the bladder.
- Radiation therapy (Radiotherapy): Just like chemotherapy, radiation therapy can be used if the cancer has metastasized to distant organs or is at risk of doing so. It is a commonly preferred method for patients who are not suitable for surgery. It can be delivered by two methods, internal and external.