Every year, around 30, 000 people in Germany contract bladder cancer (bladder cancer). Men are affected about twice as often as women. Currently, the average age at birth is 74 years for women and 72 years for men.
The diagnosis bladder cancer is often made only at a late stage, since tumors in the bladder hardly noticeable for a long time. Symptoms that may indicate bladder cancer are blood in urine or pain when urinating. However, such symptoms can also occur with a harmless cystitis. If bladder cancer is discovered at an early stage, the chances of recovery are usually good.
Causes of bladder cancer
In bladder cancer, a malignant tumor forms in the bladder. Scientists continue to disagree on why such bladder tumors develop exactly. However, there are several factors that significantly increase the risk of developing bladder cancer.
As with lung cancer, smoking also plays a key role in the development of bladder cancer, as cigarette smoke contains a wide variety of carcinogenic substances. When smoking, the pollutants get into the blood first, later into the kidney and finally into the bladder with the urine. Since the urine usually remains there for a longer period of time, the substances can develop their damaging effect in the bladder particularly well. According to experts, between 30 and 70 percent of all bladder cancers are caused by smoking.
Chemical substances increase bladder cancer risk
In addition, contact with certain chemical substances can significantly increase the risk of bladder cancer. Particularly dangerous are aromatic amines. Aromatic amines are used, for example, in the chemical and pharmaceutical industry, the rubber industry, the textile industry and in leather processing.
Bladder cancer is therefore recognized as an occupational disease in some professions. In the meantime, the most dangerous substances in the occupations concerned are no longer used, but as bladder cancer develops over a very long period of time, cases are still occurring.
In addition, chronic cystitis can increase the risk of developing bladder cancer. Similarly, people who have often resorted to the now no longer approved painkillers with the active ingredient phenacetin, an increased risk of bladder cancer.
Symptoms of bladder cancer
The first signs of cancer of the bladder are mostly uncharacteristic as they may also indicate other diseases. For this reason, one should go to the doctor early for certain symptoms in order to rule out the diagnosis of bladder cancer. The following symptoms may be the first signs of bladder cancer:
- Blood in the urine: Approximately 80% of patients with bladder cancer have blood in their urine. Blood in the urine is not always visible at first glance, sometimes the urine is only darker than normal. In women, blood in urine is often mistakenly pushed to menstruation or menopause.
- Flank pain: Flank pain that has no other obvious cause may indicate bladder cancer, but also kidney cancer.
- Urinary pain: Even symptoms that we would initially associate with chronic cystitis may be signs of bladder cancer. These include, for example, pain when urinating, frequent urination and disorders in the emptying of the bladder.
Bladder cancer: diagnostics
If you notice symptoms suggestive of bladder cancer, you should consult a doctor. He will first of all have a personal conversation with you in which you can describe your complaints and inform the doctor about previous illnesses as well as possible occupational risk factors.
If the interview aggravates the suspicion that bladder cancer is present, the doctor will perform a thorough physical examination. This study will determine whether a bladder tumor is actually present or whether there is a harmless cause behind the symptoms. For this, the attending physician first examines blood and urine. Depending on the needs, an urethra X-ray, an ultrasound or a bladder reflex may be necessary. In the case of bladder mirroring, the doctor can scan the bladder for suspicious areas and, if necessary, also take tissue samples directly.
If it is suspected after bladder speculation that a tumor has grown in the bladder, the urine of the patient is examined again - this time for malignantly altered cells. If such altered cells are found in the urine, then there is a high probability of a bladder tumor.
Close examination of the bladder tumor
Once it is certain that the patient is suffering from bladder cancer, the doctor will check how far the disease has progressed and whether the cancer has already spread, that is, whether metastases have formed. To gain more accurate information about the tumor, tissue from the bladder is again taken and examined.
In addition, a computed tomography (CT) is performed, with the location and size of the tumor and possible daughter tumors can be displayed. By CT, the attending physician also contains information on whether the tumor can even be surgically removed. If there is a suspicion that metastases have formed, in addition to ultrasound and CT, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or a skeletal scintigram can also be performed.
Following the examinations, the attending physician will work with the patient to determine the optimal treatment for him.