Saturday, May 5, 2018

Bladder Cancer Awareness Month

Throughout the month of May, various health professionals and health organizations are spreading awareness about bladder cancer as part of Bladder Cancer Awareness Month. According to Bladder Cancer Canada, an estimated 9,000 Canadians are diagnosed with bladder cancer each year, and it’s the 5th most common cancer in the country.

There are many risk factors that can increase your chances of developing bladder cancer, including:

• Smoking
• Chemical exposure
• Not drinking enough fluids
• Chronic bladder infections
• Bladder birth defects
• Other urothelial cancer
• Family history
• Race and ethnicity
• Age
• Gender

While some of these risk factors cannot be changed – such as family history and genetics, race and ethnicity, age and gender – there are certain steps that you can take to help prevent bladder cancer, such as quitting smoking, avoiding or limiting exposure to industrial chemicals in the workplace, and drinking plenty of water. Some studies have also suggested that including more fruits and vegetables in your diet can not only prevent bladder cancer, but also reduce your risk of other cancers.

Common signs and symptoms of bladder cancer include:

• Frequent urination
• Lower back pain
• Pain or burning sensation when urinating
• Blood in the urine
• Feeling the urge to urinate throughout the evening
• Feeling the urge to urinate but being unable to pass urine

It is worth noting that sometimes, patients with bladder cancer may experience none or very few of these symptoms. These symptoms are also not 100% indicative that you do have bladder cancer, as these symptoms are also common in urinary tract infections and other medical conditions that are non-cancer related.

When it comes to any type of cancer, early detection is key in order for treatment to be successful. One of the most common screening tests for bladder cancer is via a urinalysis. A urinalysis can test for blood in the urine. Typically, blood that is found in the urine is often caused by a benign condition, such as an infection, but large amounts can also be the first sign of bladder cancer. If it is suspected that a patient might have bladder cancer, some newer tests can also be performed to look for cancer cells/tumour markers. For example, things like chromosome changes, the presence of substances such as mucin and carcinoembryonic antigen (which are commonly found on cancer cells), as well as high levels of the protein known as NMP22. Family physicians like Dr. Ali Ghahary will often recommend regular bladder cancer screening tests for patients that are considered high risk.

Treatment is dependent on the stage of the cancer, but can include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, intravesical therapy, as well as surgery. Sometimes a patient may need to undergo a combination of different treatment methods, which will be decided by your team of medical professionals – including radiation and medical oncologists, as well as urologists.