May is Bladder Cancer Awareness Month in Canada. Bladder cancer is the fifth most common cancer in Canada. It is estimated that 9,000 Canadians are diagnosed with the disease each year. This type of cancer is more common in men than in women, and is usually diagnosed after the age of 65.
Bladder cancer usually develops in the cells that line the inside of the bladder. If the cancer cells only develop there, the cancer is called non-invasive. If the cancer cells spread to the surrounding bladder muscle or tissue, it is called invasive. If the cancer spreads to other organs in the body, we are then dealing with metastatic cancer.
Most cases of bladder cancer are caused by smoking. Other known risk factors include occupational exposure to various chemicals or radiation, taking certain types of medication, congenital bladder defects, or a history of cancer elsewhere in the urinary system.
The main symptom of bladder cancer is blood in the urine. Other symptoms include needing to urinate more often or urgently, difficulty urinating, or experiencing pain or a burning sensation when urinating. If the cancer diagnosis is delayed, other symptoms may manifest as the cancer grows or spreads to other organs. These symptoms can include a loss of appetite, weight loss, anemia, or pain in the pelvis, flank or bones.
As with all cancer cases, the earlier bladder cancer is detected, the greater the odds of successfully eradicating it. So don’t hesitate to see your doctor if you have any symptoms, especially if you see blood in your urine!