Bladder Cancer

What is the bladder?

The bladder is an organ which stores urine until the body is ready to urinate. The bladder is attached to the kidneys by ureters, thin like tubes, and also the urethra, the tube from the bladder out of the body. The bladder can hold about 500ml of fluid for about five hours. The detrusor muscle in the bladder relaxes to hold urine and squeezes to push the urine out.

What causes bladder cancer?

Bladder cancer develops when there is a growth of abnormal tissue in the lining of the bladder. Sometimes the abnormal tissue, known as a tumour, can spread into the muscles surrounding the bladder.

The most common symptom of bladder cancer is blood in the urine, however an urgent and frequent need to urinate and a burning sensation when peeing also are symptoms of bladder cancer. It is important individuals to go see their GP if they experience any of these symptoms, however they should not panic as these symptoms are also related to much more common conditions such as cystitis, kidney stones or enlarged prostates.

How common is bladder cancer?

In the UK approximately 10,000 individuals are diagnosed with bladder cancer each year (NHS, 2013). Bladder cancer is caused by abnormal changes in the bladder cells over many years thought to be caused by exposure to harmful substances. Therefore bladder cancer is more common in older adults and individuals who smoke.

Treating bladder cancer

Once bladder cancer has been diagnosed tests will be done to see if it is spread in order to determine the right treatment path. Seventy per cent of individuals diagnosed with bladder cancer have non-muscle-invasive cancer, which means it has not spread outside of the bladder, the death rate for this type of cancer is low (NHS, 2013). If cancer cells have spread outside of the bladder into surrounding muscles, it has a higher chance of spreading around the body and can be fatal.

Non-muscle-invasive bladder cancer is usually treated using TURBT and chemotherapy; these treatments destroy the cancerous cells whilst leaving the rest of the bladder intact. Muscle-invasive cancer treatment may involve surgery to completely remove the bladder.