What is bladder cancer?
Bladder cancer is the most common cancer of the urinary tract system.
It is more common in men than in women. Fortunately, when it is discovered, in most cases (80%), it is in the stage of superficial cancer, without having penetrated the bladder wall and without having given distant metastases.
People at risk for developing bladder cancer are: smokers (threefold risk), industrial printers, iron and aluminium processors, paints, gas and tar.
The most common symptom of bladder cancer is blood in the urine. Usually the patient himself sees the blood in the urine (visible haematuria) or is discovered by the microbiologist in the urine examination (non visible haematuria) without the blood being visible to the naked eye.
The diagnosis of bladder cancer is made by cystoscopy. Cystoscopy is the examination by which a urological instrument, the cystoscope, which carries a camera, enters the bladder from the urethra and allows us to see its interior under direct vision.
Other tests, such as ultrasound, computed tomography, can only give us a suspicion of bladder cancer, which must always be confirmed by cystoscopy.
Treatment of bladder cancer
After the diagnosis the next step is treatment. The first step in this direction is the transurethral resection of the bladder tumor. This operation is performed through the urethra without cutting the skin. The tumor is resected and sent for histological examination. The outcome of the histological examination will determine whether the patient needs further treatment or not.
After transurethral resection of the tumour depending on the result of the histological examination, some patients will have to undergo intra vesical instillations. This include instillation of a chemotherapeutic drug into the patient's bladder. The patient holds the medicine for about an hour and then urinates. The goal of this treatment is to reduce the chance of the tumour recurring.
Despite the efforts of urologists and patients, bladder tumours unfortunately sometimes reappear. For this reason, after the operation the patient should be monitored with cystoscopies in the following years according to the instructions of his urologist. Once new tumors have been identified, the patient should have another transurethral resection. This is the only way to prevent the spread of the disease.
In some cases, bladder cancer occurs at an advanced stage called muscle invasive bladder cancer. In these cases, transurethral resection is not sufficient and the patient should undergo radical cystectomy. This is a major urological procedure that involves removing the entire bladder.
Other complementary treatments for bladder cancer include chemotherapy and radiation.