May is Bladder Cancer Awareness Month
Bladder cancer is among the top ten most common cancer types in the world, with approximately 550,000 new cases annually. In the Unites States alone, approximately 83,730 people will be diagnosed with bladder cancer and some 17,200 people are expected to die from the disease in 2021, according to the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program (SEER).
Bladder cancer most often begins in the cells (urothelial cells) that line the inside of your bladder. Urothelial cells are also found in your kidneys and the tubes (ureters) that connect the kidneys to the bladder. Urothelial cancer can happen in the kidneys and ureters, too, but it’s much more common in the bladder.
Most bladder cancers are diagnosed at an early stage, when the cancer is highly treatable. But even early-stage bladder cancers can come back after successful treatment. For this reason, people with bladder cancer typically need follow-up tests for years after treatment to look for bladder cancer that recurs.
Risk factors for bladder cancer include:
- Tobacco use
- Having a family history of the disease
- Exposure to certain chemicals in the workplace
- Drinking well water with high levels of arsenic
- Having a history of bladder infections
Here are eight warning signs to watch for:
- Blood or blood clots in the urine
- Pain or burning sensation during urination
- Frequent urination
- Feeling the need to urinate many times throughout the night
- Feeling the need to urinate, but not being able to pass urine
- Lower back pain on 1 side of the body
- Decreased appetite
- Postmenopausal uterine bleeding
Worldwide differences in (historical) exposure to risk factors like cigarette smoking, chemical carcinogens in certain occupations and arsenic in drinking water or endemic chronic urinary infections caused by Schistosoma haematobium are largely responsible for the observed variability in occurrence, although a small part of the geographical differences may also be attributable to differences in access to care and availability of diagnostic procedures such as enhanced cystoscopy (e.g. narrow band imaging or blue light cystoscopy) and computed tomography between more and less developed countries.
Bray F et al (2018) Global cancer statistics 2018: GLOBOCAN estimates of incidence and mortality worldwide for 36 cancers in 185 countries. CA Cancer J Clin 68(6):394–424
Cancer.net, Bladder Cancer: Symptoms and Signs -Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 09/2020