Are you worried about developing bladder cancer? While this type of cancer doesn’t usually garner much attention, it’s one that should. As the fourth most common cancer in men, bladder cancer is quite common. Furthermore, more than 81,000 new cases of bladder cancer are diagnosed each year. While bladder cancer might not be your biggest health concern, it’s a condition worth keeping in mind. Search online to learn about the symptoms of bladder cancer, so you’re prepared for anything.

Understanding what bladder cancer looks like and how it can begin is critical to catching this cancer early on. When found and diagnosed in its early stages, the odds of successfully treating bladder cancer are higher. To learn more about what the earliest symptoms of bladder cancer look like, search online.

What Causes Bladder Cancer?

The exact cause of bladder cancer is still unknown. However, medical experts do know how this type of cancer forms within the body.

Bladder cancer begins in the cells of your bladder, specifically the cells that are found in the interior lining of your bladder. These cells, which are called urothelial cells, are also present in the kidneys and the tubes connecting the bladder and kidneys.

Though the cause of bladder cancer isn’t clear just yet, doctors do know that some factors and lifestyle choices can put some individuals at a higher risk for this type of cancer. Factors that can increase your likelihood of developing cancer can include:

  • Smoking;
  • Being age 55 or older;
  • Being male;
  • Getting exposed to certain chemicals, like arsenic and chemicals used to manufacture dyes, rubber, leather, textiles, and paint;
  • Having cancer treatment for another type of cancer;
  • Experiencing chronic bladder inflammation or repeated urinary infections, and;
  • Having a personal or family history of cancer.

You may be able to control some of these risk factors. However, others like your family history and gender cannot be controlled. Make sure to talk with your doctor about your personal potential risk factors and what you may be able to do to decrease your risk level.

Commonly, bladder cancer is found in its early stages, meaning that this type of cancer is often highly treatable. However, keep in mind that bladder cancer can return even after successful treatment. As such, you should always keep an eye out for its signs and symptoms.

Signs and Symptoms of Bladder Cancer

Bladder cancer’s signs and symptoms aren’t always the clearest. You might experience one symptom or unusual change to your health, or you might experience a number of different symptoms. Each case of bladder cancer is different, which is why it’s important to see your doctor as soon as possible if you’re experiencing any changes in your health.

Typically, the first sign of bladder cancer is blood in your urine. You may – or may not – also experience pain while you urinate. 

You’ll also want to look for these common symptoms of bladder cancer:

  • Frequent urination;
  • An urgent need to urinate;
  • Urinary incontinence;
  • Pain in the abdomen, or;
  • Lower back pain.

When bladder cancer is in more advanced stages, other symptoms can appear. If you’re experiencing fatigue, unexplained weight loss, and bone tenderness, you may have bladder cancer that’s at a later stage.

The best way to know for sure whether your symptoms are caused by bladder cancer or another health condition is to see a doctor. Your doctor will be able to run different diagnostic tests to determine the exact cause of your symptoms.

How Bladder Cancer is Treated

Once your doctor has confirmed that you do have bladder cancer, treatment is your next step. Many cases of bladder cancer can be successfully treated – but starting treatment early offers the best outcome.

While your doctor and other specialists like an oncologist will work together to create a treatment plan, bladder cancer is typically treated differently at each stage. Early-stage cancers are handled differently from late- or advanced-stage cancers. Treatment will target the source of your cancer as well as any symptoms and overall health effects it’s causing.

Here’s how bladder cancer is typically treated at its various stages.

Stage 0 and Stage 1

The earliest stages of bladder cancer are typically treated with two methods: surgery and chemotherapy. Surgery is used to remove any tumors that exist, as well as any cancerous cells or tissue that might be present. Chemotherapy, or immunotherapy, uses medication to directly attack cancerous cells.

Stage 2 and Stage 3

Treatment for bladder cancers in stage 2 and stage 3 can include a few different treatments that might be used in combination or individually. Surgery to remove part of the bladder or the entire bladder may be used, along with courses of chemotherapy. Chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and immunotherapy may be used to shrink existing tumors or kill cancerous cells.

Stage 4

When bladder cancer reaches stage 4, surgery is still an option – but typically, the entire bladder along with surrounding lymph nodes are removed. Another surgery to create a new way for urine to leave the body is also needed. Chemotherapy may also be used in combination with surgery or as a solo treatment to relieve symptoms. Radiation therapy and immunotherapy are also treatment options that may kill cancerous cells. Clinical trial drugs may also be a possibility.