The urinary bladder is the organ that collects and stores urine made by the kidneys. It is made up of muscle tissue that contracts to expel urine from the body.
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Our bodies are made up of cells which constantly divide and regenerate to make new cells. It is not fully understood why, but when abnormal cells keep dividing, they eventually form a lump of tissue called a tumour. Not all tumours are cancerous. Benign tumours may grow in size but do not spread to other parts of the body unlike malignant tumours which have the potential to spread. Bladder cancer means there are cancer cells inside the bladder that have formed a malignant tumour.
A tumour that grows towards the centre cavity of the bladder without growing into the muscle tissue of the bladder is called non-muscle invasive. These tumours represent an early stage. This is the most common type of bladder cancer. In most cases, these tumours are not aggressive and rarely spread to other organs, and can be cured without removal of the bladder.
As the cancer grows into the muscle of the bladder and spreads into the surrounding muscles, it becomes a muscle-invasive bladder cancer. At this stage, the cancer can still potentially be cured with surgical removal of the bladder. This type of cancer has a higher chance of spreading to other parts of the body.
Different stages of bladder cancer. Ta and T1
are non-muscle invasive. T2, T3 and T4 are muscle invasive.
If bladder cancer spreads to other organs, it is called metastatic bladder cancer. At this stage, cure is unlikely, and treatment is limited to controlling the spread of the disease and reducing the symptoms.
Blood in the urine is the most common symptom of bladder cancer. Non muscle invasive tumours rarely cause pain. Sometimes, the only early warning of cancer is the detection of microscopic blood in urinary screening tests.
If you have painful urination or need to urinate more often, a malignant tumour might be suspected, particularly if an infection has been ruled out. A muscle-invasive bladder cancer can cause symptoms as it grows into the muscle of the bladder and spreads into the surrounding muscles.
Symptoms like pelvic pain, pain in the flank, weight loss, or the feeling of a mass in the lower abdomen may be present in some cases when tumours are more advanced.
Tobacco use - The most common risk factor is cigarette smoking. Smokers are 4 to 7 times more likely to develop bladder cancer than non-smokers.
Age - The chances of being diagnosed with bladder cancer increases with age. More than 70% of people with bladder cancer are older than 65.
Gender - Men are 4 times more likely to develop bladder cancer than women.
Chemicals - Chemicals used in the textile, rubber, leather, dye, paint, and print industries; some naturally occurring chemicals; and chemicals called aromatic amines and others can also increase the risk of bladder cancer.
Chronic bladder problems - Bladder stones, repeated infections and long term urinary catheters may increase the risk of bladder cancer.
Personal history - People who have already had bladder cancer once are more likely to develop bladder cancer again.
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