[This story was written by Anne Lawton, RN, a Nationally Certified Tobacco Treatment Professional and community outreach nurse, St. Peter’s Health Partners.]
May is Bladder Cancer Awareness Month. Bladder cancer is a cancer very few talk about but, if diagnosed early, the survival rate can be high. Knowing the risk factors and symptoms is key to understanding how bladder cancer could impact you.
Bladder cancer occurs when cells grow out of control in the lining of the bladder. The most common symptom is blood in the urine, also known as hematuria. If you notice hematuria, you need to follow up with your primary care provider for further evaluation.
Additional symptoms include low back pain, irritation when urinating, feeling a constant need to urinate, and an increased frequency of urination. These symptoms can be found in other medical conditions, so it is very important to get a medical evaluation.
Older, white men have a higher rate of bladder cancer than other ethnic races and women. Risk factors for bladder cancer include tobacco use; chronic bladder inflammation; and exposure to pollutants in drinking water, such as arsenic. Arsenic in drinking water is a known risk factor, especially for those living in rural communities who heavily depend upon well water, where arsenic is more commonly found.
The biggest risk factor by far, however, is tobacco use. The National Institutes of Health reported current cigarette smokers have a higher risk of bladder cancer and the proportion of bladder cancer cases due to smoking is about 50 percent.
Once diagnosed, your cancer may be treated by an urologist, or both an urologist and oncologist. Depending on the stage or degree of the cancer’s spread, there are multiple modalities available to discuss with your doctor and consider for treatment.
It is important to understand the earlier bladder cancer is detected, the higher the survival rate. If you smoke, it is important to stop and there are resources and medications available for a tobacco addiction. It is never too late to quit.
A cancer diagnosis is very scary and patients can feel overwhelmed and alone. St. Peter’s multidisciplinary cancer care team can help develop a personalized treatment plan based on the type, location and extent of your cancer. We are accredited as a comprehensive, community-based Cancer Care Program by the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer, and an annual Women’s Choice Award recipient for America’s Best Hospitals in Cancer Care since 2017.
For more information, please talk to your primary care provider or call the St. Peter’s Hospital Cancer Care Center at 518-525-1827 or the Hildegard Medicus Cancer Center at Samaritan Hospital – St. Mary’s Campus in Troy at 518-268-5060.