How to Reduce Your Risks of Developing Bladder Cancer

October 22,2020 |

Bladder cancer affects thousands of Americans every year. It’s the fourth most common type of cancer in men but occurs less frequently in women.1 So far in 2020, there have been over 81,000 new diagnoses of bladder cancer, but luckily that number has been declining in recent years.1 In this article, we’ll discuss how to reduce your chances of developing bladder cancer.

What is Bladder Cancer?

The bladder is an organ located in the lower pelvis that’s made of muscular walls that stretch to hold urine produced by the kidneys. When the bladder gets too full, the muscles squeeze urine out of the body to make room for more. This process continually works day and night and, like every part of your body, is susceptible to certain problems.

Bladder cancer is when cells localized in the bladder of the urinary tract system start to mutate and grow quickly and sporadically. Otherwise normal cells lose control and when the mutated cells start to outnumber healthy cells, the result is a tumor. If this isn’t caught early enough, the cancer can spread to other parts of the body. There are five different types of bladder cancer: urothelial carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma, small cell carcinoma, and sarcoma.

  • Urothelial Carcinoma – this is also referred to as transitional cell carcinoma (TCC) and is the most common type of bladder cancer. Almost everyone diagnosed with bladder cancer is diagnosed with urothelial carcinoma. This type of cancer starts in the urothelial cells—the cells that line the inside of the bladder and slowly spreads.
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma – this type of bladder cancer is rare (about 1% to 2% of cases), but very invasive. It’s associated with chronic irritation of the bladder.
  • Adenocarcinoma – only about 1% of bladder cancer diagnoses are adenocarcinoma, but not all instances are invasive.
  • Small Cell Carcinoma – this type of bladder cancer begins in nerve-like cells and grow quickly. They encompass less than 1% of diagnoses.
  • Sarcoma – sarcomas are types of cancer that begin in the muscle cells but are the rarest form of bladder cancer.

If your bladder cancer is invasive, it means that the cancer is deep in the bladder wall and therefore, are more difficult to treat. Invasive cancer often spreads faster. Non-invasive bladder cancer only affects the inner layer of the cells and are easier to target with treatment.

Bladder cancer can also be divided into two different subtypes: papillary carcinomas and flat carcinomas. These subtypes describe how the cancer grows and can help determine whether or not the cancer will be more aggressive and invasive. If you have any questions about papillary vs. flat carcinomas, talk to your doctor today.

Risk Factors for Bladder Cancer

Risk factors are things that increase your chances of developing a certain disease or condition. With bladder cancer, there are certain risk factors that you have control over and others that are completely out of your control. While risk factors aren’t guarantees that you will develop bladder cancer, they can help you take a better preventative approach.

The risk factors that you have control over include:

  • Smokingsmokers are three times as likely to get bladder cancer than non-smokers.
  • Workplace Exposure – certain chemicals have been linked to bladder cancer.
  • Medication/Supplements – the diabetes medicine pioglitazone has been linked with increased risk of bladder cancer. Those in the highest risk groups includes painters, hairdressers, machinists, and truck drivers.
  • Arsenic Exposure in Drinking Water – high levels of arsenic present in drinking water can contribute to bladder cancer.
  • Dehydration – not drinking enough fluids can contribute to increased rates of bladder problems, including cancer over time.

    The risk factors for bladder cancer that you cannot change include:

  • Race and EthnicityCaucasians are more likely to develop bladder cancer when compared to other ethnicities. Asian Americans and American Indians have the lowest risk.
  • Age – the risk of developing bladder cancer increases with age and rarely affects people under 55.
  • Gender – men are more likely to develop bladder cancer than women.
  • Chronic Bladder Problemschronic bladder problems—urinary tract infections, kidney stones, bladder infections, long-term catheter use, and schistosomiasis—throughout life increase your risk for bladder cancer.
  • Personal History – your risk increases if you have already had bladder cancer in your urinary tract system.
  • Bladder Birth Defects – people born with bladder birth defects like exstrophy have an increased risk of developing bladder cancer.
  • Genetics and Family History – risk increases if you have a family history of bladder cancer or the hereditary condition called nonpolyposis colorectal cancer, which is also referred to as “Lynch syndrome.”
  • Chemotherapy or Radiation Therapy – both therapies increase bladder irritation over time, which can increase the likelihood of bladder cancer.

The Best Preventative Measures for Bladder Cancer

While there are a lot of risk factors that you cannot control, there are still things you can do to reduce your chances of developing bladder cancer. There is no definitive way to 100% prevent cancer but living a healthy lifestyle can help. To help prevent the likelihood of bladder cancer in your life, it’s important to take the following precautions:

Quit Smoking

The best thing you can do for your health is to quit smoking. Smoking has a negative impact on every system in your body and increases your chances of bladder cancer. When you quit smoking, you’ll reduce the likelihood of developing bladder cancer by up to 50%. If you need help quitting, you can call the American Cancer Society for information and support at 1-800-227-2345.

Try to Limit Chemical Exposures

If you work at a high-risk job, it’s important to follow the proper safety procedures to limit your chemical exposure. While it’s difficult to reduce exposure in certain jobs, following the proper protocol and using personal protective equipment can lessen the impact. The primary industries that are exposed to these chemicals include the rubber, leather, printing, materials, textiles, and painting industries; hairdressers and long-haul truck drivers.

Stay Hydrated

By staying hydrated, you’ll continually flush out potentially harmful chemicals from your bladder and urethra. Over time, this can help reduce the risk of bladder cancer. Stick to water and make it a long-term lifestyle change—merely increasing your water intake for a few weeks won’t make much of a difference.

Eat a Nutritious Diet

Eating a diet that’s rich in nutrients, vitamins, and minerals is a great way to keep your body health. There are studies that have shown long-term healthy diets can reduce your chances of developing many different types of cancer, so it’s a good idea regardless. While there are no specific vitamins or minerals that have been shown to prevent bladder cancer, keeping yourself healthy is a good way to avoid many common urologic problems.

See a Doctor for any Symptoms

If you do have bladder cancer, it’s important to catch it early—early detection can significantly increase your chance of survival. When bladder cancer is diagnosed in its earliest stages, survival rates can exceed 80%, but if it’s diagnosed in later stages, survival rate drops to less than 25%.

To give you the best opportunity for recovery, keep an eye out for any symptoms. Even if they don’t seem severe, it’s always better to see a doctor and get the proper diagnosis. Some of the most common symptoms of bladder cancer in the early stages include:

If you have any symptoms of other urologic conditions, see your doctor immediately. Signs of urologic pain or discomfort can be treated and will help you reduce your chances of developing bladder cancer later on.

Bladder Cancer Diagnosis and Outlook

If you have any symptoms of bladder cancer, your doctor will perform one or more of the following diagnostic tests.

  • Biopsy
  • Urinalysis
  • Cystoscopy
  • Urine Cytology
  • Imaging Tests

If your doctor diagnoses you with bladder cancer, the next step is to determine what the stage of cancer is using a tool such as the TNM system. There are five different stages of cancer. Stage 0 is early detection where cancer is only found on the inner lining of the bladder. Stage IV indicates that the tumor has spread into the pelvic wall, abdominal wall, or to lymph nodes throughout your body.

If your bladder cancer is caught before it reaches late stages, the five-year survival rate is about 77%—meaning 7 out of 10 people will still be alive five years later. While these numbers depend on individual circumstances, risk factors, and the overall health of an individual, it’s higher than many other types of cancers.

There are many treatment options for bladder cancer and your treatment plan will depend on the stage of your cancer alongside individual circumstances. Always follow your doctor’s recommendation and don’t hesitate to ask any questions you may have. During your treatment plan, Byram Healthcare is here to help you with anything you need along the way.