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Bladder Cancer

  • What is Bladder Cancer?

    The bladder is a muscular balloon-like organ that lies inside the pelvis. It collects urine from the kidneys and stores it. Bladder cancer is the abnormal growth of tissues in the bladder. This growth is called a tumour and develops when the cells in the bladder (mainly in the lining of the bladder) divide uncontrollably and produce extra tissue. When bladder cancer is restricted only to the lining of the bladder wall, it is called superficial bladder cancer. However, if the bladder cancer invades the muscle wall and spreads to different body organs including the lungs, liver and bone, it is then called invasive bladder cancer.

    There are three types of bladder cancer:

    • Adenocarcinoma
    • Squamous cell carcinoma
    • Transitional cell or urothelial carcinoma
  • The precise cause of bladder cancer is not very clear. However, there are various risk factors that have been linked to bladder cancer:

    • A diet high in saturated fat and constant intake of certain Chinese herbs and painkillers
    • Chronic bladder infection and certain parasite infections (Schistosoma haematobium, found in developing countries)
    • Smoking is responsible for more than 50% of bladder cancer cases.
    • Increasing age is another risk factor with the majority of cases occurring in people over the age of 70.
    • Other risk factors include gender (being male), race (Caucasians) and a family history of bladder cancer.
    • Recurrent exposure to certain chemicals in the workplace, including exposure to hair dye and aniline dyes, used in textile and rubber industries
    • Treatments of other cancers including radiotherapy to the pelvis area, or chemotherapy with a drug called cyclophosphamide
    • Blood in the urine
    • Frequent urination
    • Painful sensation while urinating

    These symptoms are also present is less serious conditions such as urinary tract infections and urinary stones.

  • There are different treatment options available for bladder cancer, depending on the grade of the cancer and how deeply it has invaded the bladder wall.

    The treatment selected for you also depends on your general health. Your doctor will evaluate your condition and suggest an individualised treatment plan that consists of a single or a combination of treatment methods.

    If the bladder cancer is still in the early (superficial) stage, treatment includes:

    • Follow-ups after treatment as superficial bladder cancers tend to re-occur
    • Intravesical chemotherapy, which can be used alone or after TURBT, whereby chemotherapy drugs are injected directly into the bladder through a catheter
    • Trans-urethral resection of bladder tumour (TURBT), a minimally invasive surgery that uses a resectoscope instrument, which is inserted into the bladder through the urethra, to snip away the tumour or burn away bladder cancer cells with an electric current

    If the bladder cancer has reached an advanced (invasive) stage, the following treatment options may be recommended:

    • Biological therapy that uses live-attenuated bcg bacteria, to trigger an immune response against the bladder cancer cells. The bacteria are injected directly into the bladder using a catheter.
    • Chemotherapy drugs, injected intravenously so they circulate in the blood and reach nearly every organ in the body. These can also be given orally.
    • Radical cystectomy, a surgery that removes the whole bladder, surrounding lymph nodes and any neighbouring organs that have become cancerous. Your doctor will create a new replacement bladder using a part of the small or large intestine.
    • Radiotherapy using high-energy rays, used to kill cancer cells and to relieve symptoms caused by the disease
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