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Categories > Cancer > Cancer prevention and screenings

About bladder cancer
Spotting a problem
Treatment options

Prevention is best
Prevention is best

Besides alerting your doctor to symptoms as soon as they surface, these steps can help lower your risk.

  • Quit smoking. Smoking is responsible for 48 percent of bladder cancer deaths in men and 28 percent in women, says the American Cancer Society.
  • Drink water. A Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) study found that men who drink more than 10 eight-ounce servings of fluid a day cut their risk for bladder cancer in half compared with those who drink fewer than five glasses daily. The theory is that frequent movement of fluid through the bladder reduces the amount of contact between cancer-causing agents and the bladder tissues.
  • Eat broccoli and cabbage. According to another HSPH study, these cruciferous vegetables lowered men’s risk of bladder cancer more than any other vegetable.

Most people know that lung cancer is directly related to cigarette usage, but few realize that smokers are also putting themselves at risk for bladder cancer. In fact, smoking more than doubles a person’s risk of getting this condition—the fourth most common cancer for men and twelfth most common for women. Those over age 40 are most at risk. Fortunately, early detection can lead to successful treatment.

Spotting a problem

Blood in the urine is usually the first sign of bladder cancer. Sometimes urination is painful or more frequent. Because these symptoms could signify a variety of conditions, your doctor will perform tests before delivering a diagnosis. These may include a blood test, an intravenous urogram (an X-ray of your kidneys, ureters and bladder) and a cystoscopy (a telescopic examination of your bladder).

Once a diagnosis has been made, your doctor will then determine the cancer’s grade (how fast it is progressing) and stage (the “level” to which it has progressed).

Treatment options

If the cancer is superficial, meaning it is restricted to the organ lining and hasn’t yet invaded the wall of the bladder, the tumors can be removed through a fairly simple procedure. Unfortunately, the tumors may grow back, so regular cystoscopies are required to check your bladder. In some patients, a weekly “cleaning” of the bladder with anticancer drugs may be required. This process, called intravesical chemotherapy, involves placing a drug in the bladder using a catheter.

If the cancer has grown past the lining into the wall of the bladder, it is called invasive. Treatment involves extraction of part or all of the organ. In addition, men may require removal of the prostate, the lower end of the ureters and sometimes the urethra. Women may require removal of the urethra, the lower end of the ureters, the front of the uterus, the fallopian tubes, the ovaries and all or part of the bladder. For both sexes, the absence of these organs may affect sexual desire and performance.

When the bladder is completely removed, a new urine reservoir must be created. Most often, the bowel will be used to create a draining method to an external changeable bag attached to the side of the abdomen.

In severe cases, when the cancer has spread to other organs in the body, chemotherapy and radiation may be required.