Tobacco, responsible for half of bladder cancers

The bladder cancer It is the ninth most frequent worldwide. In our country it occupies the fifth position, ranking as one of the most diagnosed, only below that of the colon and rectum, prostate, breast and lung. It is a tumor that, on average, is diagnosed around the age of 60.

By geographic area, bladder cancer is more common in Western Europe and North America than in Asia or Eastern Europe, according to data from the Spanish Society of Medical Oncology (SEOM).

The main known cause of this type of cancer is tobacco, since half of the diagnosed cases are attributed to smoking.

It is estimated that each year more than half a million cases are diagnosed worldwide. In total, 1.7 million live with this disease. According to the report ‘Cancer figures in Spain 2022’, 22,000 people will be diagnosed in our country.

May is Bladder Cancer Awareness Month.

This disease has been topical these days because the social chronicle journalist, Jesús Mariñas, has recently died due to complications from the cancer treatment he had been receiving since he was diagnosed in 2021.

Bladder cancer risk factors:

  • It appears after 50-60 years.
  • More common in men than women.
  • Smokers.
  • Petrochemical workers, due to exposure to toxic substances.

It is such a masculine tumor that one in four diagnosed are men. But in women it usually has a worse prognosis.

The reason is explained to us by Doctor Felix Guerrerourologist at ROC Clinic.

  • “This is because the wall of the bladder in women is thinner, so it is easier for metastasis to occur, that is, for the tumor to spread to a part of the body other than where it started.”

“When faced with bleeding in the urine, we assume bladder cancer until we prove otherwise.”

Felix Guerrero, urologist at ROC Clinic

It is also common to be diagnosed late. And it is that “when a woman begins with bleeding in the urine, the most common thing is that she is attributed to a urinary infection, and that makes the months go by until the tumor is found.”

Bladder cancer: What are its symptoms?

  • The most relevant symptom is bleeding in the urine.

  • Alterations in the micturition dynamics: more often, itching, sensation of not being able to empty the bladder (and that could be confused with an infection in the urine).

Therefore, the specialist specifies:

  • “When faced with bleeding in the urine, we assume bladder cancer until we prove otherwise.”

Around 75-85% of cases are detected early, without invasion of the muscular layer of the bladder, which is a more localized stage.

  • “5% are diagnosed with metastasis, but we can say that if it is identified early, it has a very good prognosis.”

However, it is a very recurrent tumor, which tends to reproduce quite frequently, which requires very continuous monitoring of the patient to prevent it from appearing again in the form of metastasis.

How is it treated?

Depending on your stage, treatment may be:

  • Transurethral resection of bladder tumor. It is done through the urethra, without any incision. In this surgery, an instrument is used that is placed through the urethra, avoiding any cut in the abdomen. It can be done under general or local anesthesia.
  • Chemotherapy or immunotherapy. Depending on the characteristics of the tumor, one of these two treatments can be administered, but intravesically. This is explained by the American Cancer Society.

“With intravesical therapy, the doctor administers a liquid medication directly into your bladder instead of injecting it into your blood.”

“The drug is given through a soft catheter that is placed into your bladder through the urethra and remains in your bladder for up to 2 hours. In this way, the drug can affect the cells that line the inside of your bladder without have important effects on other parts of the body.

In the worst case, a cystectomy, which is surgery to remove the bladder, which can be partial or total. A urinary diversion must be created to store urine and remove it from the body.

This intervention can also be performed to treat other tumors such as prostate or the colon.

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