The Urology Group
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November 14, 2018

Snuffing Out a Leading Cause of Bladder Cancer

By: Mark Delworth

If the smoke getting in your eyes and lungs isn’t enough to convince you or loved ones to participate in the Great American Smokeout on Nov. 15, then consider this: Smoke gets in your pee. And that’s bad news for the bladder.

The carcinogens in cigarette smoke ride out the body through the urinary tract. And that means they make a pit-stop in the bladder, exposing it to high concentrations of toxins that can cause bladder cancer. 

Smoking tobacco is in fact among the “single most-known risk factors” of bladder cancer, according to a report by the Cleveland Clinic. Smokers are three-fold more likely to develop bladder cancer than those who never smoked (former smokers are twice as likely), according to an analysis of 89 studies published in the International Journal of Epidemiology.

As a result, more than half of bladder cancers in the U.S. result from smoking, a study by Kaiser Permanente reports. In 2018, that will net out to more than 40,000 of the 81,190 new cases of bladder cancer estimated to be diagnosed. Most cases, 62,380, will occur in men, but the rate of the disease among women could rise if smoking among the younger female population increases. In 2016, 13.5% of women and 17.5% of men smoked.

The Hazards of Holding It In

Bladder cancer occurs when the cells begin to grow uncontrollably, eventually forming a tumor. Because the bladder’s stretchable walls expand gradually until reaching capacity, it is able to store urine and all that is inside it for hours. If that urine contains carcinogens, then the bladder is exposed to them.

Symptoms of bladder cancer include blood in the urine, a burning sensation while urinating, frequent urination and recurrent bladder infections. If you or a loved one experience any of these symptoms, call us to schedule a screening. Even if blood is not visible, microscopic traces can be detected.

The good news is that when identified in its early stages, bladder cancer is highly curable – there’s a 77% survival rate in the first five years. But it has to be detected, or better yet, prevented.

No Butts About Cessation

A variety of precautions, including a diet high in fruits, vegetables and liquids, have been connected with reduced chances of bladder cancer. However, among those who smoke, quitting is the single best move for reducing chances of cancer and improving overall health.

For those who want to and/or are trying, know that the odds are leaning toward your success. Today there are more former smokers than current smokers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2015, 68% of U.S. smokers said they wanted to quit.

There are many support programs and cessation tools, such as patches and gum, available. Other tips:

  • Consult your doctor for advice and recommendations.

  • Identify the triggers that cause you to smoke, such as stress or sleepiness, and plan alternate activities like walking.

  • If it is feasible, change your environment by taking a trip. An alternate routine will help diminish the habitual urge to light up.

  • Eliminate reminders of smoking, such as matches and ashtrays, and replace them with lollipops, puzzles or mints.

  • Seek help online or on the phone. The site helps smokers build quit plans and also offers an app. Smokers also can call 800-QUIT-NOW or 877-44U-QUIT.

Good luck! And remember, the surest way to keep smoke away from your bladder is by keeping it out of your body.
To learn more about detecting and treating bladder cancer, visit our website here.

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