As a woman, bladder cancer may not even be on your radar. Commonly believed to only occur in older men, this type of cancer actually can take over a woman’s bladder. When women don’t recognize the early signs of bladder cancer they are more likely to develop worse outcomes during the stages of this disease. This goes to show how important it is for women to be completely aware of the early signs and symptoms of bladder cancer, as well as the best treatment options to stay on top of this disease.
Understanding What Bladder Cancer Really Is
You have likely heard of bladder cancer at one point or another, but do you really know what this disease consists of? Located in the bladder, bladder cancer, also called bladder carcinoma occurs from the rapid build-up and growth of cells within the bladder. Just like any cancer, when cells continue to grow out of control, tumors can form and have the potential to spread to other areas of the body. It is typically seen in older adults and can be treated when caught in its early stages.
Keep reading to learn the top five things women should know to successfully avoid, treat, and fully understand bladder cancer.
Early Bladder Cancer Indicators To Be Aware Of
When women don’t catch the first signs and symptoms of bladder cancer, the seriousness of the disease escalates greatly. Here are a few of the indicators of bladder cancer you should be aware of:
- Blood in your urine (hematuria)
- The feeling of burning or pain while urinating
- Frequent urination
- Lower back pain on one side of the body
- UTI-like symptoms
- Decreased appetite
- Change in color of urine (pink, red, or brown)
- Unexplained pelvic pain
What Should I Know About Hematuria?
Hematuria is most often the first indication of bladder cancer, otherwise known as blood in your urine. When experiencing hematuria, urine can look a shade of pink, orange, or red. It is not uncommon to not notice the color change in your urine. There may be little to no pain that comes with hematuria, so it is wise to get into a habit of analyzing your urine color. The bleeding can come and go, so also recognize if the bleeding is gone, but reappears to then get in contact with a medical professional.
What Does My Pelvic Pain Mean?
Pelvic pain can mean a lot of things for women. If you are experiencing pain in your pelvic region, don’t jump to the conclusion that it’s bladder cancer right away. Depending on your other symptoms, it may mean pelvic prolapse or vulvar varicosities. No matter the case, when it comes to relieving pelvic pain, wearing a supportive belt like the Pelvic Pro, can provide compression and reduce swelling. Wearing a pelvic support belt while you are up and active will help relieve pressure and additional pain on your lower back and pelvic bone area.
Factors That May Be Increasing Your Risk
Risk factors do not guarantee that you will or will not get bladder cancer, but they are good things to be aware of, as some of them are lifestyle changes. If you would like to lower your overall risk of getting bladder cancer, some things to avoid are:
- Workplace exposure to industrial chemicals
- Not drinking enough fluids
- Arsenic in drinking water
These risk factors are lifestyle changes, but there are also factors that increase the chances of bladder cancer that are completely out of your control. If you have chronic bladder irritation, and/or are above the age of 55, you are at a higher risk of getting bladder cancer. Although these factors are not things you can control, it is important to be aware of them so you can keep the chances of bladder cancer on your radar, and catch signs and symptoms early on.
Types of Bladder Cancer in Women
There are three main types of bladder cancer, all told apart by how the tumor’s cells look under a microscope.
The three most common types of bladder cancer are:
- Urothelial carcinoma
The most common type of bladder cancer, urothelial carcinoma (or UCC), is about 90% of bladder cancers. This type of bladder cancer will start in the urothelial cells found in the urinary tract. UCC also accounts for 10-15% of kidney cancers in adults.
- Squamous cell carcinoma
Less common, squamous cells will develop in the bladder lining due to irritation and inflammation, becoming cancerous over time.
This type of bladder cancer only accounts for about 2% of all bladder cancers and develops from glandular cells.
Other, less common types of bladder cancer include sarcoma of the bladder and small cell bladder cancer. These are good to be aware of, but not likely to occur.
- Urothelial carcinoma
Best Therapy & Treatment Options
If you have been diagnosed with bladder cancer, there are many therapy and treatment options available, it all comes down to what will work best for you in your situation. Depending on the stage of cancer, and your doctor’s professional opinion, treatment options for bladder cancer can include:
- Intravesical therapy
- Bladder cancer surgery
- Radiation therapy
- FGFR inhibitors (targeted therapy drugs)
Treatment will most likely be based on what stage the cancer is in, the size of the tumor, how fast the cancer is growing and spreading, as well as your personal health preferences. The earlier the cancer is caught, the more successful the treatment sessions will be, which is why recognizing the first signs and symptoms of bladder cancer is so important!
Coping With Bladder Cancer
Every type of cancer comes along with its own set of emotional, physical, and financial burdens and challenges to overcome. The best way to cope with bladder cancer is to be completely honest about how you’re feeling and prepare and educate yourself to the best of your ability. Put your health first, take action on treating the pain the side effects may cause, and live your life to the fullest!