Bladder cancer is a type of tumor characterized by the growth of malignant cells on the wall of this organ, which can occur due to smoking or constant exposure to chemical products such as dyes, pesticides or arsenic, for example, that these substances are eliminated through the orina and are concentrated in the bladder before being eliminated, which can cause alterations.
The signs and symptoms of bladder cancer are progressive and can be confused with other diseases of the urinary system, such as increased need to urinate, pain in the lower abdomen, excessive fatigue and weight loss for no apparent reason. It is important that the diagnosis is carried out as soon as the first symptoms are identified, since in this way it is possible to start the most appropriate treatment, avoid complications and increase the chances of cure.
The signs and symptoms of bladder cancer appear as the malignant cells proliferate and interfere in the activity of this organ. In this way, the main signs and symptoms of this type of cancer are the following:
- Bleeding in the urine, which was only identified during the analysis of urine in the laboratory;
- Sensation of pain and burning when breathing;
- Pain in the lower abdomen;
- Increase in the need to urinate;
- Sudden need to urinate;
- Urinary incontinence;
- lack of appetite;
- Involuntary weight loss.
The signs and symptoms of bladder cancer are common in other urinary tract illnesses, such as prostate cancer, urinary tract infection, kidney stones or urinary incontinence, which is why it is important that the general doctor or urologist indicate the performance of You can try to identify the cause of the symptoms and, therefore, indicate the most appropriate treatment.
Many toxic substances pass through the bladder that are eliminated from the bloodstream through the urine, with which we come into contact daily through food consumption, breathing and skin contact.
These substances, which are present in cigarettes, pesticides, dyes and medicines, such as cyclophosphamide and arsenic, for example, come into contact with the wall of the bladder and, when there is prolonged exposure, they can trigger the formation of cancer cells.
In the presence of signs and symptoms that indicate bladder cancer, it is important to consult a urologist for clinical evaluations, physical examination and laboratory tests, such as urine analysis, ultrasound of the urinary tract, resonance or computerized tomography. , and cystoscopy, which consists of introducing a thin tube through the urethra to observe the interior of the bladder. See how the cystoscopy is performed.
In addition, in case of cancer suspicion, the doctor recommends performing a biopsy, in which a small sample of the region changed from the bladder to the region is taken to evaluate it at a microscopic level, with the aim of verifying whether this alteration is benign or malignant. .
Next, the next steps to define the severity and treatment of bladder cancer depending on the stage (stage) of cancer development:
- stage 0 – no evidence of tumor or tumors located only in the lining of the bladder;
- stage 1 – the tumor crosses the lining of the bladder, but does not reach the muscular layer;
- stage 2 – the tumor reaches the muscular layer of the bladder;
- stage 3 – the tumor va more allá of the muscular layer of the bladder, reaching the tejidos to its surroundings;
- stage 4 – the tumor spreads to the lymph nodes and local organs, or to other distant regions.
The stage in which the cancer is found depends on the time in which the person develops it, which is why it is very important that the diagnosis and the beginning of the treatment are carried out as soon as possible.
The treatment of bladder cancer depends on the stage and the degree of compromise of the organ, and it can be carried out through surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and immunotherapy, according to the indication of the doctor. When bladder cancer is identified immediately in the first stages, there are great probabilities of cure; for this reason, early diagnosis is essential.
In this way, among the main treatment options, which vary according to the stage of the illness, the symptoms presented by the person and the state of general health, include the following:
The surgery is the most used treatment to cure this type of cancer; however, it only has good results when the tumor is in initial stages and is located. Among the surgical procedures that can be used are the following:
- transurethral resection: consists of scraping, extirpating the tumor when it has a small size and is located on the surface of the bladder;
- Segmental or partial cystectomy: consists in extirpating the part of the bladder affected by the tumor;
- radical cystectomy: it is carried out in the advanced stages of the illness and consists of the total extirpation of the bladder.
During the total elimination of the bladder, the lymphatic organs can also be removed, or other organs close to the bladder that can have cancer cells. In the case of men, the organs eliminated are the prostate, the seminal vesicle and part of the vas deferens. In women, the uterus, the ovaries, the fallopian tubes and part of the vagina are extirpated.
2. Immunotherapy with BCG
Immunotherapy uses drugs that stimulate the immune system to attack cancer cells and are used more in cases of superficial bladder cancer or to prevent a new growth of cancer, after surgery, for example.
The drug used in immunotherapy is BCG, a solution that contains live and weakened bacteria, which are introduced into the bladder through a catheter, which stimulates the immune system to remove cancer cells. The patient must keep the BCG solution in the bladder for 2 hours and the treatment is carried out once a week for 6 weeks.
This type of treatment uses radiation to eliminate cancer cells and can be carried out before surgery, with the aim of reducing the size of the tumor, or after surgery, to eliminate cancer cells that may still be present.
Radiotherapy can be carried out externally, through a device that focuses radiation on the region of the bladder, or by internal radiation, where a device is placed in the bladder that releases the radioactive substance. The treatment is carried out several times a week, for a few weeks, depending on the stage of the tumor.
Chemotherapy for bladder cancer uses drugs to eliminate cancer cells, and only a drug or a combination of two can be used.
In patients with superficial bladder cancer, the doctor can use intravesical chemotherapy, in which the drug is introduced directly into the bladder through a catheter, remaining and acting for several hours. This treatment is carried out once a week for several weeks.
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