What’s New in Bladder Cancer Research?

November is Bladder Health Month! This month, we want to make sure you know about common bladder health issues and how to help keep your bladder healthy. We’ll also introduce you to bladder cancer and introduce some of the progress made to prevent and treat it.

But first, do you know how important your bladder is to your overall health?

What Does Your Bladder Do?

Your bladder serves a critical urinary purpose. A muscular sac (like a balloon that inflates and deflates!), your bladder is where your urine collects and is stored until you voluntarily choose to urinate. Urine comes from your kidneys, traveling down ureters to reach the bladder. From the bladder, urine will then pass through the urethra to exit the body, being pushed out when you squeeze your bladders’ muscles.

Knowing this, it’s understandable why keeping your bladder healthy is so important. That’s why doctors recommend that you drink plenty of water (think 6 to 8 cups per day), and pay attention to how coffee, tea and alcohol affect your bladder’s ability to hold urine properly, limiting intake when you notice issues.

Common Bladder Health Problems

There are a variety of health issues that can affect the bladder, including:

  • Overactive bladder: A collection of symptoms that include the inability to control urination and the need to wake multiple times per night to use the bathroom. Approximately 33 million Americans have overactive bladder conditions.
  • Stress Urinary Incontinence: A common reason for urine leakage, brought on by acts such as sneezing, laughing or coughing.
  • Internal Cystitis/Bladder Pain Syndrome: Experienced by men and women who feel pain and pressure where their bladder is located.
  • Urinary Incontinence: More generally, the situation in which men and women cannot control leakage.
  • Urinary Tract Infections: A bacterial infection caused when external bacteria makes its way up the urinary tract and into the bladder itself.
  • Neurogenic Bladder: A lack of bladder control caused by issues of the brain, spinal cord or nervous system.
  • Bladder Cancer: A type of cancer indicated when cells in the urinary bladder begin to replicate and grow in an uncontrollable manner.

These bladder health issues can be quite serious and have a severe impact on the health and lifestyle of the individuals who face them. Medical research seeks to address many of these health issues, and tremendous progress has been made. Below, we review some of the advancements made recently in the treatment of bladder cancer.

Diagnosing and Treating Bladder Cancer

There are several types of bladder cancers. They can be diagnosed as invasive or non-invasive, based on how many layers of the bladders’ wall it has affected. Bladder cancers are also diagnosed as either flat or papillary, as indicated by how the cancer grows. In addition to these common types of bladder cancer, there are multiple other types of less common cancers that can originate within the bladder.

Ongoing research has helped to make many treatments available to patients in recent years.

Genetic research is currently taking place to better understand the genetic changes that occur in cancerous cells. This research can help to identify those more likely to be diagnosed with bladder cancer, as well as identify which treatments are going to be most effective and which individuals are showing signs of relapse. Targeted therapies make up a significant portion of this gene-based research.

Molecular testing is also underway, as changes in genes and proteins may provide previously unseen signs of bladder cancer, or otherwise predict that bladder cancer is imminent.

There are additional clinical trials underway focused on the subject of immunotherapy (using your body’s natural defenses to fight cancer), along with the development of many other medications. In addition, research is also focused on remedies that help to reduce the side effects of bladder cancer. As recently as 2014, 18 different medicines to treat bladder cancer were in various stages of development!

How to Keep Your Bladder Healthy

You can’t prevent bladder cancer, but you can help to reduce your risk for bladder issues. We’ve already covered drinking water and lessening your caffeine intake – what else can you do?

  • Do you have a desk job? Go on walks to reduce fluid build-up in your legs caused by a sedentary lifestyle.
  • Do Kegel exercises, which strengthen the muscles you use for bladder control.
  • Cut tobacco out of your life. Cigarette smokers face much higher odds of being diagnosed with bladder cancer than non-smokers.
  • Track what foods you’re eating if you experience bladder issues. Spicy or acidic foods can cause bladder pain or incontinence.

By following these steps, you can help keep your bladder healthy. Share this article to help raise awareness about Bladder Health Month, and help someone you know make healthier decisions!

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