Bladder cancer is where a growth of abnormal tissue, known as a tumour, develops in the bladder lining, and, in some cases, the tumour spreads into the bladder muscle. The cancer usually takes a long time to develop, so it is most common in older people and it affects more men than women. Survival outcomes will depend largely on the type and stage of the cancer so recognising the warning signs is key to improving outcomes.
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The most common symptom of bladder cancer is blood in urine, which is seen in eight out of ten cases.
According Cancer Research UK, the blood in the urine usually looks bright red, and, in rare cases, it may look dark brown.
Sometimes the blood is there in such small amounts that you can’t see it but a urine test will pick it up, says the charity.
The blood may not be there all the time, as it can come and go, but, if you ever see blood in your urine, you should go to your GP.
The bleeding is not usually painful but it can help your doctor to know whether you had any pain when you passed the urine with the blood in it, advises the health body.
It can also help if you tell them whether:
- There is blood only when you start to pee
- The blood is mixed with all the urine you pass
As the NHS explains, having blood in your urine doesn’t mean you definitely have bladder cancer.
There are other, more common, causes including:
- A urinary tract infection, such as cystitis
- A kidney infection
- Kidney stones
- An enlarged prostate gland, in men
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You may experience a range of additional symptoms if the cancer reaches an advanced stage and begins to spread.
- Pelvic pain
- Bone pain
- Unintentional weight loss
- Swelling of the legs
How to reduce you risk
Certain factors may heighten your risk of developing the cancer, with smoking cigarettes being one of the main contributors.
According to Cancer Research UK, around half of all bladder cancers are caused by smoking and your risk of getting bladder cancer if you smoke is four times higher than that of someone who has never smoked.
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Research also shows that having many bladder infections or long lasting infections can increase your risk of developing bladder cancer, although it not known how or why this happens.
Other risk factors include:
- Exposure to dangerous chemicals at work
- Having had bladder cancer before
- Other medical conditions
- Family history
- Being overweight
A small study conducted earlier in the year suggested that a strain of the common cold virus can infect and kill bladder cancer cells, potentially heralding a new era of treatment.
The key findings of the study, conducted by University of Surrey researchers, found that all signs of the disease were eradicated in one patient, and in 14 other others there was evidence that cancer cells had died.
In this study, 15 patients with the disease were given the cancer-killing coxsackievirus (CVA21) through a catheter one week before surgery to remove their tumours.
When tissues samples were analysed after surgery, there were signs the virus had targeted and killed cancer cells in the bladder.
Once these cells had died, the virus had then reproduced and infected other cancerous cells – but all other healthy cells were left intact.
Providing an insight into the process, study leader Professor Hardev Pandha, from the University of Surrey and Royal Surrey County Hospital, said: “The virus gets inside cancer cells and kills them by triggering an immune protein – and that leads to signalling of other immune cells to come and join the party.”
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