Bladder cancer is where a growth of abnormal tissue, known as a tumour, develops in the bladder lining. The bladder is part of the urinary system, which filters waste products out of your blood and makes urine. In some cases, the tumour spreads into the bladder muscle.
According to the NHS, blood in your urine is the most common symptom of bladder cancer.
The medical name for this is haematuria and it’s usually painless.
“You may notice streaks of blood in your urine or the blood may turn your urine brown,” explains the NHS.
It adds: “The blood isn’t always noticeable and it may come and go.”
Having blood in your urine doesn’t mean you definitely have bladder cancer.
As the NHS points out, there are other, more common, causes including:
- A urinary tract infection, such as cystitis
- A kidney infection
- Kidney stones
- An enlarged prostate gland, in men.
- Less common symptoms of bladder cancer include:
- A need to urinate on a more frequent basis
- Sudden urges to urinate
- A burning sensation when passing urine.
Am I at risk?
It is unclear exactly what causes the cancerous changes in the cells of the bladder but several risk factors have been identified.
It is important to note that having one or more of the risk factors doesn’t mean you will definitely get that bladder cancer.
The gravest risk factor is smoking – around half of all bladder cancers are caused by smoking, warns Cancer Research UK.
“Your risk of getting bladder cancer if you smoke is up to four times that of someone who has never smoked,” explains the charity.
People with the highest risk are those who:
- Smoke heavily
- Started smoking at a young age
- Have smoked for a long time.
Research shows that having many bladder infections or long lasting infections can also increase your risk of developing bladder cancer.
It’s not really known how or why this happens, however.
Research has also found that having a catheter in for a long time increases your risk of bladder cancer compared with the general population.
They found that your risk increases if you’re under the age of 60 years old.
According to Cancer Research UK, if you have been diagnosed with bladder cancer, it’s worth talking to your urologist or cancer doctor to find out if it could be linked to chemicals in your workplace.
Exposure to several chemicals has been associated with an increased risk of developing bladder cancer.
Previous studies have estimated that this may account for around 25 percent of cases.
Chemicals known to increase the risk of bladder cancer include:
- Aniline dyes
According to the NHS, occupations linked to an increased risk of bladder cancer are manufacturing jobs involving:
- Leather tanning.
Some non-manufacturing jobs have also been linked to an increased risk of bladder cancer.
“These include taxi or bus drivers, as a result of their regular exposure to the chemicals present in diesel fumes,” adds the NHS.