Bladder cancer is the 7th most common type of cancer to affect the UK population. It affects more men than women and is more commonly found in those over 65; however it can occur at any age. Smoking is listed as a common contributing factor in developing bladder cancer nevertheless in around 50% of cases no known cause is found.
The most common symptom of bladder cancer is blood in your urine. The amount of blood can vary greatly from slight pink or red streaks to turning your urine a red brown colour; the blood may come and go over time. If you notice blood in your urine at any point, even if you think it has gone away, make an appointment to speak with you GP or doctor. Other symptoms include frequent urinary tract infections, an urgent need to pee, increased frequency in urination and pain when you pass urine.
It is worth remembering that symptoms of bladder cancer are similar to other less serious conditions such as urinary tract infections, kidney infections, kidney stones and an enlarged prostate (in men).
Bladder cancer usually begins in the lining of the bladder – once bladder cancer is diagnosed it will be classified according to how far it has spread. If the cancer cells have remained within the lining of the bladder and not spread to the muscle surrounding it is known as non-muscle-invasive bladder cancer. This is the most common type of bladder cancer and has the highest recovery rates.
If the cancer has spread beyond the bladder lining and into the surrounding muscles it is referred to as muscle-invasive bladder cancer. This type of cancer is less common but has a higher associated risk of spreading into other body parts.
Treatment for bladder cancer
Treatment for bladder cancer will depend on the type of cancer (non-muscle-invasive or muscle-invasive) and the individual. Various treatment options will be considered and you may have a multi-disciplinary team (MDT) who will explore these options with you.
If your cancer is non-muscle-invasive cancerous cells can usually be removed whilst leaving the rest of the bladder unharmed. This is carried out using a surgical technique known as transurethral resection of a bladder tumour (TURBT) (a surgical technique which removes the cancer from the bladder); a dose of chemotherapy medication may also be administered into the bladder to reduce the risk of the cancer returning.
If the cancer is deemed high risk of returning or is muscle-invasive you may have to have your bladder removed (known as cystectomy). If this happens you will need an alternative way of collecting urine – Read more about the different types of urinary catheterisation.
It is also possible to construct a new bladder using part of the bowel – all these options will again be discussed with you.
Make an appointment to speak with your GP if you are at all worried about your symptoms.
Sources used in writing this article are available on request.
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Information written by the talkhealth team
Last revised: 18 November 2016
Next review: 18 November 2019