Positive Outcomes in Bladder Cancer: Risk factors, warning signs and the positive outcomes of early detection
Written by Helen Forristal, MSc (ANP) BSc (Professional Nursing) ENB 237 (Oncology Nursing), Director of Nursing Services at The Marie Keating Foundation
Each year in Ireland, 491 men and women are diagnosed with bladder cancer. Sadly, around 222 people die from the disease each year. But this does not have to be the case. When detected early, bladder cancer is very treatable.
Bladder cancer begins when cells in the bladder start to grow uncontrollably. As more cancer cells develop, they can form a tumour which can spread to other areas of the body. It usually takes a long time to develop, so it is most common in older people.
3 in 4 people (over 75%) who get bladder cancer in Ireland are 65 years or older. Although less common in people under 50, it is very worthwhile staying vigilant. More men than women get bladder cancer. This may be because more men than women have smoked or been exposed to chemicals/dyes at work in recent decades.
We don’t know exactly what causes most bladder cancers but there are some factors that may increase your risk
Smoking cigarettes increases your risk of bladder cancer. Over a third of all bladder cancers are caused by smoking. Your risk of getting bladder cancer if you smoke is up to 4 times that of someone who has never smoked.
People with the highest risk are those who:
• smoke heavily
• started smoking at an early age
• have smoked for a long time
• Cigar and pipe smoking can also increase your risk.
Certain industrial chemicals have been linked with bladder cancer. Workers in other industries that use certain organic chemicals also may have a higher risk of bladder cancer. It is always worth checking with your Health and Safety officer, about your safety when using certain chemicals. Thankfully there is far more regulation around the use and exposure to chemicals than there was many years ago.
If you have been diagnosed with bladder cancer, it is worth finding out if you have ever been exposed to a chemical mentioned here. If you have, talk to your urologist or cancer doctor.
• Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons
• Chlorine and trihalomethanes
There are also risk factors that are beyond your control
Race and ethnicity – Caucasians are about twice as likely to develop bladder cancer as Black and Hispanic people. Asian Americans and Native Americans have slightly lower rates of bladder cancer. The reasons for these differences are not well understood.
Age – Bladder cancer usually takes a long time to develop, so it is most common in older people. 3 in 4 people (over 75%) who get bladder cancer in Ireland are 65 years or older. It is rarer in people under 50.
Gender – Bladder cancer is much more common in men than in women.
Chronic bladder irritation and infections – Urinary tract infections, kidney and bladder stones, bladder catheters left in place a long time, and other causes of chronic bladder irritation have been linked with bladder cancer (especially squamous cell carcinoma of the bladder), but it’s not clear if they cause bladder cancer.
Personal history of bladder or other urothelial cancers such as kidney
Genetics and family history – People who have family members with bladder cancer have a higher risk of getting it themselves.
Prior chemotherapy or radiation therapy
Signs and symptoms
These are the possible symptoms of bladder cancer. Your symptoms are unlikely to be cancer, but it’s important to get them checked by a doctor.
Blood in the urine
Blood in the urine is the most common symptom of bladder cancer. 4 out of 5 people with bladder cancer (80%) have some blood in their urine. Doctors call blood in the urine haematuria (pronounced heem-at-you-ree-ah). It is important to remember that blood in urine can sometimes be caused by stones in the urinary tract, a Urinary Tract Infection or even Prostatitis.
Sometimes the blood is there in such small amounts that you can’t see it.(called microscopic haematuria) But a urine test will still show if blood is present and if it is further tests will be carried out.
The bleeding is not usually painful but tell your doctor whether you had any pain when you peed (passed urine) with blood in it as it will help them to make their diagnosis.
It can also help your doctor if you tell them whether:
• There is blood only when you start to pee
• The blood is mixed with all the urine you pass
Problems with passing urine may be a symptom of other conditions but a bladder cancer should be ruled out.
You should see your doctor if you:
• Notice blood in your urine
• Need to pass urine very often
• Need to pass urine very suddenly
• Have pain when passing urine
Please go to your doctor if you have any concerns, it is better to have these signs and/or symptoms checked out early and remember that early detection saves lives. Many cancers can be treated and potentially cured if caught early.
For more information and support around bladder cancer or any of the most common cancers please go to www. mariekeating.ie or reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
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