When a person is diagnosed with any form of cancer, just the very mention of the “C” word instils fear, but a better understanding of the condition and how it is treated can help to relieve some of the anxiety. When it comes to bladder cancer, how it is treated can be dependent on the stage the cancer has reached by the time it is discovered. It can often be a case by case situation to determine the very best course of treatment.
Let’s take a closer look at bladder cancer and bladder cancer treatment options.
What Is Bladder Cancer Exactly?
Bladder cancer is a cancer that most commonly affects the inner lining of the bladder. In Australia, bladder cancer accounts for approximately 3% of all cancers diagnosed per year. While it’s difficult to pinpoint a particular cause of bladder cancer, things like smoking cigarettes, drug use, exposure to occupational chemicals, radiotherapy to the pelvic region and long-term catheter insertion can all be contributing factors.
Bladder Cancer Symptoms
One of the earliest symptoms of possible bladder cancer are small droplets of blood in the urine. Another symptom is a burning sensation when urinating. These 2 symptoms are very similar to those experienced with a urinary tract infection. An exact diagnosis can only be obtained through medical testing.
What Patients Need To Know About the Treatment Of Bladder Cancer
As mentioned in the introduction to this article, treatment will vary depending on what stage the bladder cancer has reached and what type of bladder cancer you have. A urologist is a specialist who deals in the treatment of bladder cancers and your urologist will not only advise you on the stage of your condition, but how best to treat it.
The easiest way to find a urologist near you is either by a referral from your doctor, or by searching online using terms like “bladder cancer treatment in Sydney”.
Most commonly, Australians are diagnosed with superficial bladder cancers, where tumours are confined only to the mucosa of the bladder. This type of bladder cancer is initially treated by endoscopic mucosa resection. This is where a long, narrow tube equipped with a light and a camera is inserted so the cancerous material can be removed without major invasive surgery. At the same time, surrounding muscle tissue samples may also be taken for analysis, to ensure the cancer hasn’t spread further.
If a patient has more than one tumour, has a high-grade tumour, or tumours that are recurring on a rapid basis, intravesical chemotherapy may be recommended and put into play as a treatment option. This style of chemotherapy involves introducing the drug directly into the bladder itself. The aim is to prevent bladder cancer from returning. Typically, chemotherapy sessions will take place once a week for a period of 6 weeks.
If you’re suffering from a superficial form of bladder cancer, tumours can come back periodically, so it’s vital to go in and see your urologist for regular check- ups. This way, if a tumour does come back, it can be dealt with expediently. If a superficial bladder cancer tumour goes untreated, it can become a more invasive form of cancer.
Radiation therapy for bladder cancer is employed as part of the overall treatment of bladder cancer in its early stages, and also following surgical procedures that don’t involve the removal of the entire bladder. It’s also a treatment choice when a patient cannot have surgery or undergo chemotherapy. Radiotherapy is also beneficial in the treatment of symptoms of bladder cancer that’s in its advanced stages or has spread beyond the bladder. At times, radiation therapy is administered along with chemotherapy, as chemo helps the radiation work more effectively.
Radiation therapy is administered via an external radiation beam, targeting the exact areas where it’s necessary. Although the radiation is stronger, the treatment is somewhat similar to getting an X-ray.
In some cases, such as when the cancer has spread to the muscles surrounding the bladder, complete bladder removal via a procedure called radical cystectomy is the recommended course of action to stem the spread of the bladder cancer. A neo-bladder is then created out of a section of the bowel to replace the removed bladder.
Like all cancers, the results of bladder cancer treatment will be the most positive if the cancer is detected in its early stages.