Understanding Bladder Cancer
- Teresa Scott, from England, is currently fighting bladder cancer that has spread to her lungs and some of her bones. She was misdiagnosed with a UTI and prescribed five rounds of antibiotics before doctors eventually discovered the cancer.
- Bladder cancer develops when cells that make up the urinary bladder start to grow and eventually develop into tumors. It is highly treatable when caught in the early stages of the disease.
- Blood in the urine, or hematuria, is the most common symptom of bladder cancer, but there are other signs of the disease. One of our experts says the best way to avoid bladder cancer is to “hydrate well, don’t smoke and make sure that you get in to see your physician if you have symptoms that concern you.”
Scott was told she had a urinary tract infection (UTI) in July 2021. She was then prescribed five rounds of antibiotics, but nothing seemed to help the pain in her lower stomach and back. Her doctor eventually sent her for the ultrasound that revealed a polyp in her uterus.Read More
She then underwent a “painful” biopsy that likely to the discovery of her bladder cancer since it caused the tumor in her bladder to bleed.
“I was shocked by the blood and back on the phone to the doctors but was told this was the polyp. I told them that it was in my pee,” Scott said. “I was booked in for the polyp to be removed under general anesthetic; however, I was already in A&E before the operation.”
At the hospital, her doctor sent a sample off and referred her to a bladder specialist 48 hours later.
“He even said, ‘it was a good job you kept on,’” she said. “I will never forget the 26th of October when I saw the tumor. I had to go alone, and I just cried in the car afterwards. I was in shock.”
Scott then underwent CT scans, blood tests and a TURBT – a transurethral resection of a bladder tumor. During the operation on November 16, doctors removed an aggressive 0.8 inch tumor and discovered that the cancer had spread to her lungs and some of her bones.
“Cancer hadn’t even been mentioned, and I was in shock,” she said. “I called my doctor the next day, and he told me, ‘Don’t worry,’ but of course, I was worried like hell. I was sure I was going to die.
“My cancer spread straight away. On the 1st of December, my husband and I went to see a nurse; everyone kept telling me that nurses don’t give bad news.”
That’s when she was told she had muscle-invasive bladder cancer.
“I cried for two days,” She said. “I went from having a polyp to advanced bladder cancer in one month.”
Scott began chemotherapy is January of this year, but she’s trying to stay as positive as possible. She’s also sharing her story to bring more awareness to the cancer and fundraise to “fight bladder cancer.”
“I have always been a positive person and I will continue to be even if I need to change my life,” her fundraising page reads. “I have a passion in my heart to change things and I hope you will join that passion.”
Understanding Bladder Cancer
Bladder cancer is the fourth most common cancer among men, but women get the disease too. It develops when cells that make up the urinary bladder start to grow and eventually develop into tumors.
“Bladder cancer is one of those cancers that you don’t hear about too often, which has always been surprising to me because it is the fifth most common cancer that we see in the American population,” Dr. Jay Shah, the cancer care program leader for urologic oncology at the Stanford Cancer Center, previously told SurvivorNet. [It’s worth noting that the National Cancer Institute puts it as the sixth most common type of cancer in the U.S.]
There are many factors to consider regarding your risk of developing bladder cancer. The following are some risk factors to think about:
- Smoking. Smokers are three times more likely to be diagnosed with bladder cancer than non-smokers.
- Chemical exposure. Some chemicals used in dyes, rubber, leather, printing material, textiles and paint products have been linked to risk of this disease.
- Hydration. Drinking a lot of fluids each day is associated with lower bladder cancer risks. This is partly due to the fact that people who stay well hydrated empty their bladders more often.
- Race. Caucasians are twice as likely to develop this cancer.
- Age. The risk of this disease increases as you age.
- Sex. Men are diagnosed more often than women.
- Personal history. Your risk increases if you or anyone in your family has had bladder cancer.
Symptoms of the Disease
Bladder cancer can often be detected early because the main first sign of the disease – hematuria – is hard to overlook. This is great news because bladder cancer is highly treatable when detected early.
Hematuria means there is blood in the urine. This blood can change the urine’s color to orange, pink and, in some extreme cases, dark red. Hematuria is usually the first sign of bladder cancer, but it can also occur with other health issues too.
“That is far and away the most common presenting symptom,” Dr. Arjun Balar, the director of the genitourinary medical oncology program at NYU Langone’s Perlmutter Cancer Center, previously told SurvivorNet.
In the early stages of bladder cancer, when the tumor is small and cancer cells are confined to the bladder, this bleeding is typically painless. Because of this and the fact that these symptoms can be brief and irregular, some people might not seek out medical help right away. And when there’s only small amounts of blood in the urine, you might not even see a noticeable change in color.
According to Dr. Balar, other bladder cancer symptoms resemble that of a urinary tract infection. He even said some patients might find out they have bladder cancer after “many courses of antibiotics to treat what was thought to be a urinary tract infection that simply did not get better.”
“Early acknowledgement of symptoms, and not ignoring symptoms is probably one of the other most important things that you can do,” he said.
On top of blood in the urine, other possible symptoms of bladder cancer can include:
- Needing to urinate more frequently than you typically would
- Feeling like you need to urinate urgently even when your bladder isn’t full
- Waking up to urinate many times throughout a night
- Having a trouble urinating because of pain or a burning sensation
- Frequent urination, urgent urination, and uncomfortable urination are all symptoms of bladder cancer.
In addition, people with advanced bladder cancer may experience additional symptoms like:
- Inability to urinate
- Pain on one side of the lower back and pelvis
- Loss of appetite
- Unintended weight loss
- Fatigue or weakness
- Bone pain
- Swollen feet
There’s no recommended screening for bladder cancer since screening methods have not been shown to reduce the risk of dying from the disease for people with an average level of risk. Even still, doctors may recommend screening for certain high risk individuals. But if you want todo your best to avoid bladder cancer, Dr. Balar’s advice is simple:
“Hydrate well, don’t smoke and make sure that you get in to see your physician if you have symptoms that concern you.”