5 Facts You Should Know About the BladderBy: Stephen Kappa
Most of us can carry 16 ounces of liquid – that’s just one glass of water in each hand. But if our bodies can’t hold 16 ounces on the inside, then it may be time to call a doctor.
That’s roughly the capacity of the average bladder, 16 ounces. Every day, about seven times a day, this hollow organ gradually fills up, stores and then eliminates all those cups of fluids we take in.
Unless, of course, something is wrong. Would you recognize the signs your bladder would send? May is Bladder Cancer Awareness month, highlighting the fourth most-common cancer in men, so let’s learn what our bladder is telling us.
The Urine Test: 5 Bladder Facts
Bladder cancer occurs when abnormal cells develop and grow uncontrollably, forming a tumor. This tumor can damage tissue and impede the bladder’s ability to function.
Nearly 80,500 new cases of bladder cancer are expected to be diagnosed in 2019: 61,700 in men and 18,770 in women, according to the American Cancer Society. The good news: These numbers are on the decline, and the overall survival rate is good, 70% in the first ten years.
Bladder cancer cannot be treated if it is not detected, however. Here are five facts about your bladder that may serve as warning signs.
- It’s a complicated storage tank. The bladder is essentially four layers of tissue, blood vessels and muscles that collectively enable it to expand, store and contract. The most common bladder cancer (transitional cell carcinoma) occurs in the cells lining the bladder’s inside.
- It minds if you smoke – a lot. Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of bladder cancer; it’s three times more likely among smokers than nonsmokers. This is because the carcinogens flow through the urinary tract and sit in the bladder while it is filling.
- It likes to be diluted. Research indicates that drinking lots of fluids, especially water, can reduce rates of bladder cancer, possibly because it makes us pee more frequently, washing out toxins.
- It is not pretty in pink. Hematuria, or blood in the urine, is a sign of bleeding from the bladder and the most common symptom of bladder cancer. It will tint urine from pink to dark brown.
- It tells you when it’s time to go…to the doctor. An ailing bladder can’t store urine as well. The result is the urgent need to pee and more frequent trips to the bathroom. Though these symptoms can signal something less serious like overactive bladder, it’s worth getting checked out. Urination may be painful as well. If this occurs to you or a loved one, call your urologist.
While at the Doctor
Testing for bladder cancer can range from a simple urine or blood test to a cystoscopy, a procedure during which a threadlike scope is inserted through the urethra to view the bladder. Your urologist may perform a biopsy during the cystoscopy and even remove the growth, if in the early stages.
Other treatments include medication, administered through a catheter, and surgery to remove part or all of the bladder, although surgery is usually limited to advanced-stage cancer.
Like many of life’s necessities, the bladder may be taken for granted until it no longer can hold its own, in which case, 16 ounces can be a huge weight. To learn more about bladder cancer, diagnoses and treatments, visit our web page here.