Sunday 18 August 2019

Bladder cancer cures depend on type of diagnosis

Dr Michelle Cooper. Photo Eye Focus
Dr Michelle Cooper. Photo Eye Focus

By Dr Michelle Cooper

Bladder cancer is a common cancer and can occur in both men and women. In 2007, there were over 400 cases of bladder cancer diagnosed in Ireland.

  In most cases, bladder cancer develops from the transitional cells which line the inside of the bladder (as mentioned above). This type of cancer is called transitional cell bladder cancer. Other types of bladder cancer are rare.


A cancerous tumour starts from one abnormal cell. The exact reason why a cell becomes cancerous is unclear. It is thought that something damages or alters certain genes in the cell. This makes the cell abnormal and multiply out of control. In many cases, the reason why a bladder cancer develops is not known. However, there are factors which are known to increase the risk of bladder cancer developing. These include:

• Increasing age.

• Smoking - Bladder cancer is 2-6 times more common in smokers than in non-smokers.

• Other chemicals - Certain workplace and environmental chemicals have been linked to bladder cancer - for example, substances used in the rubber and dye industries.

• Gender - Bladder cancer is about three times more common in men than in women.

• Ethnic background - Bladder cancer is more common in white people than in black people.


Blood in urine - In most cases, the first symptom noticed is the presence of blood in your urine (haematuria). Haematuria caused by an early bladder tumour is usually painless. You should always see your doctor if you pass blood in your urine. The blood in your urine may come and go as the tumour bleeds from time to time.

Other symptoms - Some tumours may cause irritation of the bladder and cause symptoms similar to a urine infection. For example, passing urine frequently or pain on passing urine. If the cancer is a muscle-invasive type, and grows through the wall of the bladder, other symptoms may develop over time. For example, pain in the lower tummy (abdomen). If the cancer spreads to other parts of the body, various other symptoms can develop.


Urine microscopy - A sample of urine can be sent to the laboratory to look for cancerous cells under the microscope. This test may detect cancerous cells. However, if no cancerous cells are seen, it does not rule out bladder cancer. Further tests are done to confirm or rule out the diagnosis if symptoms suggest bladder cancer.

Cystoscopy - This test is commonly done to confirm a bladder tumour. Having a cystoscopy entails a doctor or nurse looking into your bladder with a special thin telescope called a cystoscope. The cystoscope is passed into your bladder via your water pipe (urethra). A cystoscopy which is done just to look into your bladder is normally carried out under local anaesthetic. If a procedure is done, such as removing a tumour via a cystoscope, a general anaesthetic is usually used.

Ultrasound - This is a safe and painless test which uses sound waves to create images of organs and structures inside your body. An ultrasound scan may be used to diagnose a bladder cancer.

Computed Tomography (CT) Scan - Another test called CT urogram is a special type of CT scan that obtains pictures of your urinary tract. This is sometimes done to look for a bladder tumour.


Treatment options depend on whether or not the cancer is contained within the bladder. Most superficial cancers are removed with a cystoscope via transurethral resection (TUR). Following this it is usual for patients to have at least one dose of chemotherapy which is delivered directly into the bladder (intravesical) and removed after a few hours. The aim is to kill any cancer cells that have been left behind following the TUR.


• Superficial bladder tumours - There is a good chance of cure with treatment. Also, routine checks every few months following treatment will often detect returning tumours early and treatment can be repeated as necessary.

• Muscle-invasive bladder tumours - A cure is less likely than with a superficial tumour. As a rule, the earlier the stage of the tumour, the better the chance of a cure with the treatments listed above. However, even if it is not cured, treatment can often slow down the progression of the cancer.

The treatment of cancer is a developing area of medicine. New treatments continue to be developed and the information above about outlook is very general. The specialist who knows your case can give more accurate information about your particular outlook, and how well your type and stage of cancer is likely to respond to treatment.

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Wexford People

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