Cancer is arguably one of the most frightening diseases, especially considering its countless variations. Bladder cancer arises when abnormal cells within the bladder start to proliferate uncontrollably, potentially leading to the formation of a tumor. Over time, this cancer can extend to nearby muscles and organs.
Unlike other cancers that may metastasize to the bladder, this type of cancer is specifically named after its point of origin.
In the United States, approximately 60,000 cases are diagnosed in males and 18,000 in females each year. Globally, it ranks as the 7th most common type of cancer.
Continue reading to discover more about the symptoms, risk factors, available treatments, and survival rates associated with this disease.
What is Bladder Cancer?
Bladder cancer develops when cells in the bladder begin to grow abnormally and uncontrollably. The bladder, a hollow organ shaped like a balloon located in the lower abdomen, is responsible for storing urine.
The bladder is equipped with a muscular wall that enables it to expand and store urine produced by the kidneys. It can also contract to release urine from the body. Located above the waist, one kidney resides on each side of the backbone. Working in tandem, the bladder and kidneys collaborate to eliminate toxins and waste materials from the body by means of urination.
The kidneys contain small tubules that act as filters, removing impurities from the blood and ensuring its cleanliness. This cancer is none less than its variations, in 2023 alone the estimated cases of people affected by this cancer hit a distressing 82,290 count with a mortality rate reaching up to 16,710.
According to a recent report by Kings Research, the global Bladder Cancer Market is expected to accrue USD 7.97 billion in revenue by 2030, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.12% from 2023 to 2030. This market valuation indicates the invasiveness and perilous nature of the disease.
Different Types of Bladder Cancer
Urothelial carcinoma, also known as transitional cell carcinoma, is a form of cancer that originates in the urothelial cells. These cells line various organs such as the bladder, urethra, ureters, and renal pelvis. Urothelial carcinomas account for the majority of bladder cancers as they have the unique ability to change shape. They can stretch when the bladder is full of urine and contract when it is emptied.
Other rare forms of cancer are:
- Squamous cell carcinoma is a type of cancer that originates in squamous cells (flat thin cells lining the bladder). This carcinoma can be developed from prolonged irritation or infection caused by the tropical parasite schistosomiasis, common in Africa and the Middle East but its occurrence is rare in the United States. Chronic irritation can lead to a transition from bladder transitional cells to squamous cells.
- Adenocarcinoma is a form of cancer that originates in the glandular cells lining the bladder. These cells produce mucus and other substances.
- Small-cell carcinoma of the bladder refers to cancer that originates in neuroendocrine cells (nerve-like cells that release hormones into blood upon receiving a signal from the nervous system).
This cancer can be categorized in different ways:
- Non-muscle-invasive: This type of cancer has not extended to the muscle wall of the bladder.
- Muscle-invasive: In this case, cancer has penetrated the bladder's lining and has advanced into the muscle wall of the bladder or even beyond it.
What Leads to Bladder Cancer?
Cancer results from mutations in cells that cause them to grow and multiply rapidly and uncontrollably, eventually spreading to other tissues. While specific factors can elevate the risk of DNA damage leading to these mutations, mutations can also occur randomly. This means that some individuals may develop this cancer without identifiable risk factors, while others with multiple risk factors may never develop the condition.
Who is Prone to Bladder Cancer?
Several factors can heighten the risk, including:
- Smoking cigarettes
- Exposure to carcinogenic chemicals such as petroleum, metals, rubber, dyes, diesel fumes, or paint products
- Specific genetic alterations
- A family history of bladder cancer
- Contracting schistosomiasis, a bladder infection caused by a particular parasite
- Consuming water contaminated with arsenic or chlorine
- The use of certain herbal medicines and supplements
- Previous treatment involving chemotherapy drugs like cyclophosphamide or ifosfamide
- Prior radiation therapy to address pelvic cancer
- Chronic bladder infections or prolonged use of urinary catheters
- Inadequate fluid intake
- A congenital bladder defect
Smokers face a risk at least three times higher than non-smokers for developing bladder cancer. Additionally, this cancer tends to be more common in specific demographic groups, including those who are assigned male at birth, individuals aged 55 or older, and individuals of white ethnicity.
How is Bladder Cancer Diagnosed?
If you exhibit symptoms or have received lab results, such as urinalysis findings, suggesting the possibility of cancer, a medical professional will typically initiate the diagnostic process. This often begins with taking your medical history and performing a physical examination, which might include a manual examination for lumps in the vaginal or rectal area. In addition, your doctor may recommend a series of diagnostic tests. These tests can encompass:
- Cystoscopy: Involves the insertion of a narrow tube with a small camera through your Biopsy: Involves the collection of a small tissue sample from your bladder for cancer testing.
- Imaging: This can include a computed tomography (CT) scan or an intravenous pyelogram (IVP) to observe the bladder.
- Urine Tumor Marker Test: This test can identify certain types of cancer.
Further tests are typically ordered to determine the stage, looking for signs of cancer in other areas of the body. These may encompass:
- CT scan
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan
- Chest X-ray
- Bone scan
This cancer is staged using a system that describes the invasiveness of the disease. The various staging systems and stages include:
- Stage 0: The cancer is confined to the bladder lining.
- Stage 1: The cancer has extended beyond the bladder lining but has not reached the bladder muscle layer.
- Stage 2: The cancer has invaded the bladder muscle layer.
- Stage 3: The cancer has infiltrated the surrounding bladder tissues.
- Stage 4: The cancer has spread beyond the bladder to adjacent body areas.
These stages can also be further subdivided to provide a more detailed description of cancer spread.
Bladder cancer originates in the bladder's tissue, leading to urinary symptoms like urgency and frequency. Additionally, it may cause systemic symptoms such as fatigue. The stage of cancer and other factors such as age and overall health can affect the treatment options and prognosis.