Friday, November 19, 2010


Good morning!  Recently, I found out that my former father in law was diagnosed with bladder cancer.  Not one of the most recognized cancers out there, so I started to do a little research and I'd like to share what I found.

First, some basic anatomy.  The bladder is the organ in our body that collects urine manufactured by our kidneys.  Below is a diagram that shows the anatomy the male urinary tract.  Urine flows from the kidneys through the ureters and into the bladder where the urine will pass out of the body through the urethra.

There are three types of bladder cancer and they are named for the types of cells they form from.  (Try saying that three times fast....form from...form from....for---oops.  Sorry.  It's been a long night shift here.)  Let me get back on track... First, is Transitional Cell Carcinoma.  Cancer that begins in cells in the innermost tissue layer of the bladder. These cells are able to stretch when the bladder is full and shrink when it is emptied. Most bladder cancers begin in the transitional cells.

Next is Squamous cell carcinoma: Cancer that begins in squamous cells, which are thin, flat cells that may form in the bladder after long-term infection or irritation.

Last is called Adenocarcinoma: Cancer that begins in glandular (secretory) cells that may form in the bladder after long-term irritation and inflammation.

Cancer that is confined to the lining of the bladder is called superficial bladder cancer. Cancer that begins in the transitional cells may spread through the lining of the bladder and invade the muscle wall of the bladder or spread to nearby organs and lymph nodes; this is called invasive bladder cancer.

Risk factors for developing bladder cancer include the following:

Smoking.   And, really for all you smokers out there, what doesn't smoking cause? You smoke, you will die-period.  Either from a cancer caused by the effects smoking causes on the body.  A short list of smoking related illnesses--coronary artery disease, peripheral vascular disease, copd (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), and lung cancer.

Environmental exposures.  The old saying, "This job could kill you"  is no joke.   Being exposed to certain substances at work, such as rubber, certain dyes and textiles, paint, and hairdressing supplies.

One risk factor we can control is our diet.  It is a known fact that a diet high in fried meats and fat is not good for your heart and arteries.  Well, it turns out you can develop bladder cancer from eating this food as well.

Risk factors that can't be controlled are gender, race, and age.  It turns out that being older, male, or white will increase your chance of developing bladder cancer.

Having an infection caused by a certain parasite. Interestingly enough, there was a show on Discovery Health (I think, but it may have been on TLC) that talked about how this parasite this woman picked up while swimming in Africa a few years earlier.  She started to have all these bizarre symptoms like a rash on her thighs.  Had the doctors not found out what had been making her sick, the parasite would've caused bladder cancer.  I guess it lodges itself in the bladder and just feeds on the host and reproduces lots and lots of eggs.  The thought of something like that being inside of me totally grossed me out, by the way. 

These and other symptoms may be caused by bladder cancer. Other conditions may cause the same symptoms such as a bladder infection or kidney infection. A doctor should be consulted if any of the following problems occur:
--Blood in the urine (slightly rusty to bright red in color).

--Frequent urination, or feeling the need to urinate without being able to do so.

--Pain during urination.

--Lower back pain.

There are a series of tests that can be performed to diagnose bladder cancer.  Some invasive and some non-invasive.  Here's a list and a little bit about each:

--CT scan (CAT scan): A procedure that makes a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body, taken from different angles. The pictures are made by a computer linked to an x-ray machine. A dye may be injected into a vein or swallowed to help the organs or tissues show up more clearly. This procedure is also called computed tomography, computerized tomography, or computerized axial tomography.  This is painless and as easy as taking a basic x-ray.

--Urinalysis: A test to check the color of urine and its contents, such as sugar, protein, red blood cells, and white blood cells.  This one is easy--you just pee in a cup.

--Internal exam: An exam of the vagina and/or rectum. The doctor inserts gloved fingers into the vagina and/or rectum to feel for lumps.  Definitely doesn't sound pleasant, but physical exams rarely are. 

--Intravenous pyelogram (IVP): A series of x-rays of the kidneys, ureters, and bladder to find out if cancer is present in these organs. A contrast dye is injected into a vein. As the contrast dye moves through the kidneys, ureters, and bladder, x-rays are taken to see if there are any blockages. A lot of people have allergic reactions to the dye that is injected.  Some symptoms as easy as a rash, but others that may include swelling of your airway--not good.  So, make sure your x-ray tech asks you the right questions prior to getting an IVP done.  These questions are designed to rule out if you might have a possible allergy to the dye.

--Cystoscopy: A procedure to look inside the bladder and urethra to check for abnormal areas. A cystoscope is inserted through the urethra into the bladder. A cystoscope is a thin, tube-like instrument with a light and a lens for viewing. It may also have a tool to remove tissue samples, which are checked under a microscope for signs of cancer.  Thank God that you are put out for this test because it definitely is not a pleasant procedure.  We get these in the recovery room all the time.  
Once you've been gone through all the worry, pain, and tests and you find out you do have bladder cancer, you need to be advised of what your options are.  Typically, the options are the same as for any cancer, which are: surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.  You may or may not have heard the terms--slash, poison, and burn, which is exactly what occurs.  Sometimes, I'm really dumbfounded by the fact that we seem to have so much technology and knowledge at our finger tips, but these are our only treatment options. 

In any way, shape, or form, the bottom line is--CANCER SUCKS!!  When our family members are faced with the nightmare of having cancer, we are stuck having  to sit by and support them in whatever manner we can all the while hoping for the best.  Although I've had some differences with my former in laws over my divorce, I always had a good repore with them.  I'm saddened to learn that the family is having to go through all of this and I wish him and the rest of his family well. 



Anonymous said...

I think about add this material in my RSS. Do u think its ok?

Unknown said...

Absolutely! It's really good information for anyone who may need it! Thanks for reading!

Anonymous said...

Hope to see same more information in futere.