Bladder Cancer Symptoms and Risk Factors

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Each year about 56,000 men and 18,000 women in America are diagnosed with bladder cancer, resulting in about  17,000 fatalities. While bladder cancer does not claim as many lives as breast and lung cancer, it is still a deadly disease that claims too many lives yet somehow fails to garner the same level of education and awareness as its more prevalent counterparts. We want to do something about that. Read on to learn about the factors that may put you at a higher risk of developing bladder cancer in your lifetime. If you believe that you may be at high risk, talk to your doctor.

What is Bladder Cancer?

Bladder cancer typically appears in the urothelial cells that line the inside of the bladder. While the majority of bladder cancer cases are diagnosed while still in the early stages when the disease is highly treatable, it can return. This pattern of recurrence means that bladder cancer survivors are encouraged to receive follow-up tests for years post-treatment to ensure the disease is not recurring or advancing to a higher stage.

Bladder Cancer Symptoms

Symptoms of bladder cancer may include:

  • The presence of blood in the urine
  • Painful urination
  • Frequent and/or urgent urination
  • Incontinence
  • Abdominal pain
  • Lower back pain

Risk Factors of Bladder Cancer

Bladder cancer can strike victims of any age, though it typically affects older adults and is more common in men than in women. Several factors may increase an individual’s risk for developing bladder cancer, including:

  • Tobacco use. Mainly, cigarette smoking, though cigar and pipe smoking, can also increase one’s risk. Individuals who smoke are four to seven times more likely to develop bladder cancer in their lifetime compared to nonsmokers.
  • Caucasians are more than two times as likely to develop bladder cancer in their lifetime than African Americans. 
  • Personal History. Due to bladder cancer’s inherent recurring nature, an individual who has been previously diagnosed stands at a higher risk for subsequent diagnosis.
  • Individuals who are obtaining chemotherapy treatments with cyclophosphamide have a higher risk of developing bladder cancer.
  • Chronic Bladder Problems. Individuals who suffer from regular, recurring bladder issues are at a higher risk of bladder cancer. Such conditions include the recurrence of bladder stones and bladder infections.
  • Regular Use of a Urinary Catheter. Long-term catheter use is common in individuals who are paralyzed from the waist down. The long-term use of such products increases one’s risk of bladder infection, which can increase the risk of bladder cancer.
  • Lynch Syndrome. Formerly known as hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC), the presence of this inherited condition may increase one’s risk of developing bladder cancer.
  • Chemical Exposure. Regular exposure to some natural and artificial chemicals can increase one’s risk of bladder cancer. Chemicals that create the highest risk include those used in the following industries: rubber, textile, dye, paint, leather, and print. Naturally occurring chemicals with known risk factors include aromatic amines.
  • Arsenic Exposure. While arsenic is a naturally occurring substance, exposure in large quantities can cause health risks. When arsenic is present in drinking water, it can increase the risk of bladder cancer.

When to Get Help

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, or if you believe that you are at a high risk of developing bladder cancer, talk to your doctor. He or she can assess your risk or diagnose your symptoms and collaborate with you on a treatment plan to help improve your long-term health and wellbeing.

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