The bladder is the small organ situated in the middle of the lower abdomen. Its purpose is to hold and release urine. Bladder cancer begins when cancer cells develop in the bladder. The majority of bladder cancers begin in the lining of the organ. Symptoms include blood in the urine, painful or frequent urination and pain in the lower abdomen. It is not know what causes bladder cancer. However, there are certain risk factors that make one more susceptible to bladder cancer. If you have one or more of the risk factors and have symptoms of bladder cancer, you should contact your doctor right away.
How Bladder Cancer Develops
Bladder cancer develops when the cells of the organ began to grow too rapidly. They no longer grow in an orderly fashion, but create mutated cells. These mutated cells grow out of control and do not die, resulting in a tumor. The three bladder cancer types include:
- Transitional cell carcinoma- This type of cancer begins in the cells in the lining of the bladder, and is the most common type in the United States. Transitional cells are the ones that expand for a full bladder and contract when the organ is emptied. Transitional cells also line the urethra and ureter, so tumors can form in those areas as well.
- Squamous cell carcinoma- Squamous cells emerge as a result of irritation or infection in the bladder, and can later become cancerous. This type of cancer is rarely seen in the United States. It is most countries where certain parasitic infections are common.
- Adenocarcinoma- This type of cancer begins in the bladder’s mucus-secreting cells. It is also rare in the United States.
In medical terms a risk factor is something that raises a person’s chance of developing a certain disease and condition. There are several risk factors associated with bladder cancer.
- Age- Chances of developing bladder cancer go up as we age. It is very rarely seen in people younger than 40 and very common in people age 65 or older.
- Smoking- People who smoke have a high risk of developing bladder cancer.
- Bladder defects- People born with certain bladder defects are more likely to develop adenocarcinoma, which is a cancer in the mucus-secreting glands of the bladder.
- Ethnic background- Caucasians are more likely to develop bladder cancer than people of other races or ethnicities.
- Chronic bladder infections- Chronic means repeated or long-term type of infections. People who suffer with chronic bladder infections have an increased chance of developing squamous cell bladder cancer, which are the cancer cells that appear in your bladder in response to infection or irritation. This is most common in other countries where parasitic infections cause a chronic condition.
- Exposure to certain chemicals- Anyone exposed to arsenic or those that job requires they work with plastics, rubber, paints, dyes, textiles and leather have a higher risk of developing bladder cancer than those who do not.
- Cancer therapies-Women who have used radiation to treat cervical cancer run a higher risk of bladder cancer later in life. Some chemotherapy drugs such as ifosfamide (Ifex) and Cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan) and have also been shown to raise the risk.
The cause of bladder cancer is not known. However certain risk factors raise a person’s chances of developing bladder cancer. Transitional cell carcinoma is common in the United States, while squamous cell carcinoma and adrenocarcinoma are rare. If you have symptoms of bladder cancer and are in one or more of the high risk categories, make an appointment with your doctor to assess your symptoms. Bladder cancer survival rates are higher if caught and treated early.
American Cancer Society: What Causes Bladder Cancer?