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Bladder Cancer

Overview and Facts

Bladder cancer is abnormal cell growth that begins in and on the bladder, the body’s urinary storage unit. When diagnosed and treated in its early stages, the prognosis for recovery is quite positive. However, bladder cancer has a high rate of recurrence, so it is important for survivors to be vigilant about follow-up testing and care.

Signs and Symptoms

Many other early bladder cancer signs are similar to other conditions, such as kidney infections, and this can make initial diagnosis difficult. Common symptoms include hematuria (blood or clots in urine), painful and frequent urination, a feeling of straining when urinating or that the bladder cannot be fully emptied, and frequent urinary tract infections. More advanced bladder cancer symptoms can include flank pain (on the sides of the lower back, near the kidneys), a mass or growth in the pelvic area, and distension of the lower legs.

Causes and Diagnosis

Like most types of cancer, the causes of bladder cancer are not always clear. Smoking, exposure to certain chemicals, and a diet high in animal fats have all been linked to a higher incidence rates. Other factors, such as personal and family history, chronic cystitis, sex, and aging are also associated with increased risk. Males are three to four times as likely to develop bladder cancer than women, and while the disease can strike at any age, most cases occur in individuals over 70. Bladder cancer is rarely found in people under 40.

Tests and Treatments

If one has bladder cancer symptoms (and especially if any of the risk factors above are present), a medical provider should be consulted as soon as possible. After obtaining a complete medical history and giving a physical examination, the doctor will likely perform a number of bladder cancer tests. Initially, these will likely include a standard urine test, imaging tests, and a cystoscopy, in which the doctor will insert a small scope into the bladder. If any abnormal cell areas are found, biopsies will be taken and sent to the laboratory for testing and closer examination. Other, more general, tests may also be ordered to evaluate blood composition and the functioning of related organs. If bladder cancer is diagnosed, further testing will be needed to ascertain the stage and extent to which the disease has spread.
The appropriate treatments for bladder cancer depends on the stage and location of the cancer. If still contained in the bladder, surgery is almost always the first line of defense. For small tumors or low-stage cases, burning away the affected cells or removing them via a semi-invasive procedure called transurethral resection are the preferred methods. In more advanced cases, the bladder (or a part) is usually removed. Other common treatments include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and immunotherapy (also called biological therapy).

Tips and Home Remedies

While there are no known bladder cancer home remedies, making certain lifestyle adjustment can help both with prevention and maintaining overall health during recovery. Quitting smoking is the single most important change one can make to decrease risk. Data suggests that smoking almost doubles the chance of developing bladder cancer. Adopting a diet rich in plant-based foods and vitamins can also decreases risk and increases overall health. Some studies suggest that drinking green tea regularly can decrease the chances of developing bladder and other cancers, but the research is inconclusive. During treatment, maintaining proper nutrition and hydration and getting enough sleep are imperative. There are several natural and over-the-counter remedies to help with nausea and diarrhea, which are often side effects to chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

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