Bladder cancer is a condition in which cells in the urinary bladder experience uncontrolled growth, creating tumors and gradually impinging on the bladder’s healthy tissues. In some cases, a cancerous bladder tumor can be the result of metastasis, or the transfer of cancer from adjacent tissue. Otherwise, bladder cancer is caused by the generation of a new tumor.

The American Cancer Society estimates that 80,470 people in the United States will be diagnosed with bladder cancer in 20191, which makes learning about this condition all the more important. Fortunately, bladder cancer does bring warning signs you can look out for before you seek out screenings and treatment options.

Common Warning Signs

When bladder cancer is still in its early stages, it can be hard to diagnose. Many types of tumors are relatively painless when they are small, but there are a few ways that you can find bladder cancer early and improve your chances of recovery.

It can be difficult to detect bladder cancer in its earliest stages. However, the following are common warning signs you should look for2:

  • Blood in your urine
  • Painful urination
  • Uncontrolled or frequent urination

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms and warning signs, you should see your doctor. Ask about a bladder cancer screening. This is the best way to determine whether or not you could be living with early-stage bladder cancer.

Advanced Warning Signs

As bladder cancer becomes more advanced, your symptoms will worsen. Pain isn’t common in the early stages of this cancer, but it can appear as the symptoms grow more pronounced.

The following are some of the warning signs and symptoms you can experience with bladder cancer that’s progressed beyond its earliest stages3:

  • Lower back pain, which can be continuous or constant
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling weak
  • Swollen feet or legs
  • Bone pain
  • Abdominal pain
  • A persistent, unexplained cough
  • Jaundice, or the yellowing of your skin

Once these symptoms set in, it can be more difficult to treat your cancer. With the right team of medical professionals and the right treatment, however, you may still be able to achieve remission.

How Is Bladder Cancer Diagnosed?

If your doctor is concerned that you may have bladder cancer, he or she will use a variety of techniques to diagnose your cancer and determine the stage of your condition.

The first step in diagnosing bladder cancer is a urine test. If any blood is found in the sample, your doctor will order a urine cytology test. That will determine whether or not there are any tumor cells in your urine.

Your doctor may also perform a cystoscopy, which involves the insertion of a flexible, lighted tube into your urethra. With this tube, your doctor will be able to see the inside of your bladder and detect any tumors in your urethra. A full cystoscopy exam can be performed in your doctor’s office.

If your doctor is still unsure about your diagnosis, he or she may perform a biopsy of your bladder tumor and bladder muscle. This procedure is called a transurethral resection of bladder tumor (TURBT). It’s used to determine a tumor’s type and how deeply it’s attached to the bladder muscles.

To determine whether or not your bladder cancer has spread to other parts of your body, your doctor may order a variety of imaging scans such as a CT scan, an MRI, a PET scan, or an ultrasound.

How Is Bladder Cancer Treated?

In some cases, a cancerous bladder tumor may be removed with a simple TURBT procedure. A number of other types of surgery may also be used, including a pelvic lymph node dissection or a radical cystectomy.

For men, radical cystectomy involves the complete removal of the bladder and, in many cases, the prostate and urethra as well. In women, the ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus, and part of the vagina may be removed. Pelvic lymph node dissection involves the removal of the lymph nodes that are adjacent to the bladder.

Once the bladder is removed, a procedure called urinary diversion is performed to give urine a new way to pass out of the body. In some cases, a urinary bag may be worn outside the body. However, it’s becoming increasingly common to create a new bladder on the inside of the body from intestinal tissue.

Alternatively, patients with bladder cancer can undergo chemotherapy, immunotherapy, or radiation therapy.

Intravesical chemotherapy involves the injection of anti-cancer drugs directly into the bladder. Systemic chemotherapy is either applied by intravenous injection or oral application. Immunotherapy is another potential therapy for bladder cancer that involves the boosting of the immune system to fight back against cancer cells. In some cases, oncologists may also suggest the use of radiation therapy.

What Now?

Bladder cancer is a formidable foe, but if you catch this disease early, your chances of fighting back are good. If you have any reason to suspect that you have bladder cancer, consult with your doctor immediately. Caution and swift action can make the difference between life and death.

Alternative treatments are also an option for those with bladder cancer. Some advocates of alternative medicine have classified conventional, allopathic treatments for bladder cancer as the “cut, poison, and burn” approach. If you’re concerned that allopathic medicine isn’t the best approach to treating your cancer, there are a few alternative treatment methods at your disposal.

For instance, some experts believe that diet may be a big part of fighting cancer.4 In particular, the ketogenic diet has specifically been identified as potentially effective against cancer. The Gerson Diet is another form of complementary cancer treatment that involves coffee enemas and the consumption of fresh fruit.5

Working to improve your overall health and well-being may improve your ability to fight your bladder cancer. Of course, before trying any type of alternative treatment, do plenty of research and consult with your doctor. You have options, and taking action is your best choice when it comes to bladder cancer.