When it comes to unusual bodily events, we all know there are some things you shouldn’t ignore.
For example, most people can name shortness of breath and pain in the chest or shoulders as warning signs of a heart attack, warranting a trip to the ER.
But did you know that your bladder can also give you hints that something is amiss?
July is Bladder Cancer Awareness Month, the perfect time to become more familiar with your bladder and the symptoms and risk factors you should always pay attention to.
Know what’s normal
Abnormal urinary symptoms and blood in the urine may be the first sign of bladder cancer, though they can be caused by less serious problems as well. Always talk to a healthcare professional about any of the following:
Symptoms of bladder cancer
- Painful or burning urination
- Increased frequency of urination, or feeling the urge to urinate without being able to produce urine
- Blood in the urine; urine that appears slightly red or rusty in color
Bladder Cancer Risk Factors
In El Paso and Las Cruces, bladder cancer rates are relatively low (See National Cancer Institute’s “State Cancer Profiles,” when compared to the rates of other types of cancer. This may be partly due to our large hispanic communities.
According to the American Cancer Society, Whites are about twice as likely to develop bladder cancer as African Americans. Likewise, Hispanics (along with Asian Americans and American Indians) have lower rates of bladder cancer.
Race is a complex player in the list of known bladder cancer risk factors, accompanied by the following:
- Smoking: Cigarette smoking is the greatest risk factor for bladder cancer. Smokers are two to threetimes as likely to get bladder cancer compared to nonsmokers (Health Research Funding Organization). Cigarette smoking brings the cancer-causing chemicals in cigarettes through the lungs and into the bloodstream. The kidneys are then responsible to filter harmful substances from the blood, so they pass the carcinogens along to the bladder to be passed out of the body. When the urine sits in the bladder, the concentrated chemicals that started in the cigarette can damage the cells in the bladder wall and increase the likelihood of bladder cancer.
- Low fluid consumption: Along those lines, drinking plenty of water can decrease your risk of developing bladder cancer, as your bladder has to empty out more often. Neglecting to hydrate yourself may increase your risk, because cancer-causing chemicals are left sitting in your bladder longer, according to Cancer Treatment Centers of America
- Workplace exposure: Bladder cancer has a higher incidence in blue collar workers, perhaps because they tend to be more exposed to harmful chemicals, which are inhaled and go through the same filtering process as cigarette smoke. The American Cancer Society names the following professionals that may be at a higher risk of bladder cancer: painters, machinists, printers, hairdressers (hair dye exposure) and truck drivers (diesel fume exposure).
- Gender Men are more likely to develop bladder cancer than women, though the Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network says that recent studies show an increase in the number of women being diagnosed with the disease.
How do You Know if You Have Bladder Cancer?
Once symptoms are present, the specialists like those at Rio Grande Urology can use a variety of tests to determine if bladder cancer is the cause. Urine tests, some of which are done with a microscope, can tell doctors a great deal about the state of the bladder.
When more information is needed, a procedure called a cystoscopy may be used. A cystoscope is a very small camera that gives doctors a close view of the bladder walls, and allows them to remove any suspicious tissue for biopsy. Other possible tests include Ultrasound, CT and MRI scans.
If cancer is detected and treated early, there is good news. According to Texas Oncology, Bladder cancer has a high five-year survival rate: For non-invasive tumors there is a 98 percent survival rate; for invasive tumors the rate is 71 percent.
So now more than ever, don’t ignore those unusual bodily events. Give RGU a call at 915-225-2020 to schedule a consultation with one of our highly professional, expert providers.