By Nik Donovic, Special for USDR
Bladder cancer is one of the most common cancers in the US. It is also deadly, killing about 15,000 Americans every year (men are much more likely than women to develop–and die–from the disease). Early detection is crucial; a delay in treatment can have dire consequences. July is bladder cancer awareness month. Let’s spread the word to stop the disease. Here’s what you need to know about this frightening condition.
Men need to be especially vigilant.
Men develop bladder cancer up to 4 times more frequently than women do. Every year brings about over 56,000 new cases of the disease, compared with 17,000 in women. Men are often reminded to check for more high-profile conditions such as testicular cancer. Regarding bladder cancer, though, many men miss the memo.
Many risk factors are easy to spot.
In addition to maleness, bladder cancer has many risk factors which are easy for most men to identify. Most cases develop after the age of 55, and the average age of diagnosis is 73. Smoking, as is so often the case, greatly increases risk. Your workplace, too, may have exposed you to bladder cancer-causing agents. Previous and existing bladder problems (infections, birth defects, other cancers, etc.), also increase the likelihood.
Delayed diagnosis makes it more dangerous.
Simply put, delaying a bladder cancer diagnosis makes the disease more likely to kill you. Bladder cancer has 4 stages. Even at stage I, 12% of patients die. By stage IV, it’s a whopping 85%. One study by the American Cancer Society suggested that because a few of the early warning signs can also suggests other, less serious conditions, doctors may miss early opportunities to begin treatment; this lowers your chance of survival. There are several methods of diagnosing the disease. As a patient, you may want to look into them and see what’s best for you.
Treatments, especially late ones, can devastate your life.
By stage III, the cancer has broken beyond the bladder. You may need to have part or the entire bladder removed. This can lead to, in some cases, total incontinence. Incontinence can lead not only to humiliation and hygiene issues, but also to losing your independence. Although the home health aide industry is beginning to boom, older adults are still often moved to nursing home care when their families decide they now have the ability to take care of themselves. Other treatments include chemotherapy and radiation therapy, neither of which you want to deal with as you age.
Some preventive measures are easy
While age, race, and family history are not something you can control, many preventive measures are within your reach. Drink enough water; getting enough water cleans your bladder out and prevents chemical buildup, decreasing your cancer risk. Stop smoking; smoking causes several cancers, including bladder cancer. Most importantly, communicate with your doctor; if you have bloody urine, urinary tract pain, increased urinary frequency, or any other signs of cancer, you need to speak with your doctor. Any embarrassment you feel will be more than offset by the improvements you will be making to your life.
Nik Donovic resides in the state of Arizona where he spends much of his time outdoors or traveling. When he’s not enjoying nature, he’s either working on his car, reading a good book, or keeping up to date with new technology.