May is Bladder Cancer Awareness Month. The World Health Organisation ranks Bladder Cancer as the 12th most common cancer globally and estimates that 170,000 new cases are recorded each year with the developing countries recording a third of these. Bladder Cancer Awareness month will be marked with public awareness programmes, broader education and the strengthening of ties between all the parties affected and involved with this disease.

Understanding Bladder Cancer

The bladder is located in the lower abdomen and its function is to store urine that has been produced by the kidneys. Cancer occurs when cells undergo a degenerative and malignant transformation which causes them to mutate and grow uncontrollably. Bladder Cancer occurs when a tumour (a growth of abnormal tissue) develops in the bladder lining. The tumour then spreads into the surrounding muscles.

Passing blood in the urine (usually painlessly) is the most common symptom of Bladder Cancer. Broadly speaking Bladder Cancer has three main classifications. These classifications are dependent on the spread of the cancer. When the cancer is confined inside the lining of the bladder (from where it has originated) it is referred to as non-muscle-invasive Bladder Cancer. This is by far the most common type of Bladder Cancer and accounts for more than two thirds of all reported cases.

Bladder Cancer Infographic

When the cancer has spread beyond the bladder lining and into the surrounding muscles of the bladder it is then known as muscle-invasive Bladder Cancer.

When Bladder Cancer spreads to other parts of the body it is then referred to as metastatic bladder cancer. Metastasis refers to the development of secondary malignant growths away from the primary site of the cancer.

Bladder Cancer Awareness Month

Awareness programmes lined up for Bladder Cancer Awareness Month will focus on these and other issues pertaining to Bladder Cancer. These will include the reasons Bladder Cancer occurs, its treatment and outlook after treatment.

Most reported cases of Bladder Cancer can be linked directly to exposure to dangerous chemicals. Smoking which is usually associated with lung cancer has also been shown to be a major risk factor for Bladder Cancer. Smokers have a risk factor of up to seven times of developing Bladder Cancer than non-smokers. Radiation has also been identified as a contributing cause of Bladder Cancer. Less common but worthy of note is a parasitic infection known as Schistosomiasis. This is contracted through contact with fresh water that has been infected with human waste.

Blood Cancer Awareness Month would be nothing without the input of volunteers, donations where applicable and lending support to established institutions that will be seeking to create awareness of this disease. Health professionals, Bladder Cancer Survivors and their families will be the key participants in the effort to create awareness of the disease. The greater public is expected to learn from them and hopefully integrate the lifestyle necessary to avoid contracting this disease. The medical profession is expected to bring us all up to date on advances in countering this disease and measures that everyone can take to ease the lives of patients.

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