Bladder cancer refers to the formation of cancerous cells in the bladder (the organ that stores urine). In this disease the cells become malignant and multiply rapidly and without control in the bladder. This form of cancer most commonly occurs as transitional cell carcinoma or, in simpler terms, within the cells located in the inner lining of the organ. Less common versions also include squamous cell carcinoma (cancerous cells that are thin and flat), and adenocarcinoma (cancer that begins in cells that produce fluid).
Signs and Symptoms
Bladder cancer symptoms range from blood in the urine (not always visible by the human eye), pain or discomfort during urination, frequent urination (pollakiura), or feeling a need to urinate with no results. It is important to note that some of these symptoms can develop from cystitis and prostate infections. Proper diagnosis by a qualified medical doctor (MD) or urologist should be undertaken to determine what is causing the underlying symptoms of bladder cancer.
Causes, Prevention, and Risk Factors
The primary causes of bladder cancer (and many other forms of cancer), is believed to be environmental carcinogens. With this in mind, tobacco use is considered to be the leading cause, especially in male patients where it is nearly twice as common as that of female patients. Occupations with the highest risk include metal workers, those employed in the textile industry, and individuals who work in printing. Bladder cancer is not believed, by most physicians, to be heritable (it does not spread through families).
Types and Forms
There are three primary types of bladder cancer which include:
- Transitional cell carcinoma – Transitional cell carcinoma is the formation of cancerous cells that line the inside of the bladder. These cells expand the bladder when its full and contract if empty. Transitional cell carcinoma is the most common form of bladder cancer within the U.S.
- Squamous cell carcinoma – Squamous cells appear in your bladder usually in response to some form of infection or irritant. Over time these cells can eventually become cancerous. Squamous cell carcinoma is a rare form of cancer in the United States. However, it is fairly common in third world countries and areas where parasitic infections are more common. These parasitic infections are known to cause squamous cell carcinoma in the bladder.
- Adenocarcinoma – In Adeneocarcinoma, the cancer develops in mucus secretion glands in the bladder. Like squamous cell carcinoma, this form of cancer is also quite rare.