Word on Health

Word On Bladder Cancer

Our grateful thanks to Fight Bladder Cancer for their contribution to our radio report (which you can hear again at the bottom of this page) and for the use of the information below. To connect through to Fight Bladder Cancer click here.

What does the bladder do? - The bladder is the organ in your body that stores and then releases your wee. The wee comes down from your kidneys through the ureters into the bladder through the day and night. It is held in the bladder until it sends a signal to your brain telling you that you need to have a wee. 

It is an efficient system that we never really think about until we get a problem. For most people, the system works very well throughout their lives, with only maybe the occasional UTI (urinary tract infection) that would need a course of antibiotics, to worry about.

However, sometimes a problem can be more serious than this. You are probably reading this because either you or a loved one has been told that they could have bladder cancer. Or there are some worrying symptoms which you are looking to explain. 

Cancer is a genetic disease, the name given to a collection of related diseases that can start almost anywhere in the human body, which is made up of trillions of cells. Cells are the components from which our bodies are built. They divide and grow while they are needed, then stop growing and die, when they are not. If something goes wrong in a cell, it continues to divide, making more abnormal cells which eventually form a lump or tumour.

A benign tumour will not spread beyond where it originally formed. A malignant tumour can grow into nearby tissue and can travel around the body via the blood or lymphatic system. This is a network of organs and tissues that help the body to get rid of toxins, waste and other unwanted materials by circulating lymph, a fluid containing infection-fighting white blood cells.  

What causes bladder cancer? Smoking is the by far the largest preventable cause of bladder cancer. If you haven’t given up yet, do it now! Even at this stage, it can massively help your recovery. In fact, bladder cancer is the only type of cancer that gets less aggressive if you stop smoking.

Other causes have been shown to include diesel fumes and certain industrial chemicals or dyes. In some cases we can't identify the cause, because not enough is known about the disease. This is why we support new research, so we can develop a better understanding of all the causes, and help prevent people getting bladder cancer in the first place.

What are the symptoms? The most common symptom of bladder cancer is blood in your wee. This can be very obvious (when your wee is bright red) or invisible to the naked eye (your doctor finds it by testing your wee with a dipstick). Blood in your wee can vary in depth from just a tint of redness to a rusty brown colour.

The second-most common symptoms are related to bladder irritation. These can include needing to wee more frequently than normal, having to rush to the toilet, having to get up a lot at night or finding it painful to wee. Sometimes these symptoms appear as repeated urinary infections or urinary infections that don’t settle down with antibiotics. 

Other symptoms of bladder cancer can be any or a number of the following: 

  • Tiredness
  • Abdominal pain
  • Weight loss
  • Incontinence
  • Lower back pain

Remember that other less serious conditions can have these same symptoms.

Please see your GP to rule out other possible causes. If there is any hint that your symptoms could be from bladder cancer, you will be sent for more detailed tests.

Are there different types of bladder cancer? Bladder cancer is commonly separated into slow-growing, non-invasive cancers and fast-growing invasive cancers. These are commonly called non-invasive bladder cancer (NMIBC) and invasive bladder cancer (MIBC).

Non-invasive bladder cancer can be called ‘early-stage bladder cancer’ – this is when the cancer is found to be limited to the bladder surface and hasn’t spread elsewhere.

Invasive bladder cancer is when the cancer has spread deeper into the bladder itself, or even through the wall of the bladder into adjoining organs. 

Does bladder cancer affect men and women? Bladder cancer can affect people of all ages and genders, although its more prevalant as we get older. Out of every 100,000 people, 56 men and 18 women are diagnosed with bladder cancer each year.

Listen to this weeks radio report

All material on this website is provided for your information only and may not be construed as medical advice or instruction. No action or inaction should be taken based solely on the contents of this information; instead, readers should consult appropriate health professionals on any matter relating to their health and well-being.