May is Bladder Cancer Awareness Month, a time to raise awareness about bladder cancer and encourage everyone to prioritize their bladder health.

Bladder cancer occurs when cells in the bladder start to grow uncontrollably, potentially forming a tumor and spreading to other parts of the body. The bladder, a hollow triangle-shaped organ in the lower abdomen, serves the essential function of storing urine until urination begins. When cancer is present, urination and other bodily processes can be disrupted.

Signs and Symptoms of Bladder Cancer

Though cancer of the bladder is often diagnosed in the early stages and is highly treatable, paying attention to warning signs is crucial to ensure the best prognosis. Some of the symptoms to look out for include:

  • Blood or blood clots in urine (hematuria)
  • Frequent urination
  • An intense feeling of needing to urinate frequently, especially during the night
  • Pain or burning during urination
  • Lower back pain on one side of the body

The evaluation of symptoms, urine samples, biopsies, imaging tests, and cystoscopy consisting of using a scope to examine the bladder can all be used to help determine a bladder cancer diagnosis.  

Types of Bladder Cancer

Different types of cells in the bladder can become cancerous; learning which cells are growing uncontrollably determines what kind of bladder cancer the patient has and what treatment is best. Some common bladder cancer types to be made aware of are:

  • Urothelial Carcinoma – Also referred to as transitional cell carcinoma, this cancer occurs in the cells lining the inside of the bladder and is the most common. Urothelial cells also line other urinary tract areas, including the ureters, urethra, and part of the kidney.
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma – This cancer type is associated with chronic bladder irritation, such as an infection or long-term use of a catheter. Though rare in the United States, it is more common in areas of the world where a certain parasitic infection, known as schistosomiasis, commonly causes bladder infections.
  • Adenocarcinoma – This sporadic bladder cancer begins in the cells that comprise the mucus-secreting glands within the bladder.  

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