Understanding Cancer

Urinary Tract Cancers

We will conclude our exploration of the various types of cancer with one of the few cancers that affect more men than women -- urinary tract cancers.

Bladder Cancer

Bladder cancer is the most common cancer of the urinary tract. It occurs most often between the ages of 50 and 70 and is the fourth leading cause of cancer death among men. Four times as many men as women are afflicted.

Bladder cancer has been connected with exposure to a number of carcinogens. Bladder cancer may result because the urinary tract comes into contact with so many foreign substances due to its excretory function. For many years it has been known that those who work with aniline dyes have a high incidence of cancer of the bladder. Bladder cancer is also associated with exposure to tar from tobacco smoke and with schistosomiasis (infestation with a tropical parasite).

Blood in the urine is usually the first symptom of bladder cancer. In addition, urination may be difficult, painful, and frequent. The appearance of blood in the urine may be intermittent, and if this symptom disappears, a doctor is sometimes not consulted. However, anyone with blood in the urine should consult a doctor since, in the early stages, this disease may be curable, and treatment is far more difficult later. If the symptoms suggest bladder cancer, a cystoscopic examination may be ordered. With the patient under local or general anesthesia, a lighted tubelike instrument called a cystoscope is passed into the urinary tract through the urethra (the passageway from the bladder to the outside), so that the interior of the bladder can be examined. This instrument can also be used to obtain a biopsy specimen (a small sample of tissue for laboratory analysis) of a suspicious growth.

Treatment of bladder cancer depends on how far advanced the disease is. A small tumor can sometimes be completely removed with a cystoscope. More advanced cases are treated with surgery or radiation or a combination of the two. In certain cancers, chemotherapeutic agents are instilled directly into the bladder.

Prostate Cancer

After lung cancer, this is the most common cancer among men. African American men have a higher incidence of prostate cancer than any other group in the world. In general, it is more common in men over 55. Cancer of the prostate (a male sex gland that lies at the base of the bladder) can develop very slowly, often producing no symptoms until the disease is far advanced. Sometimes a routine rectal examination discloses a lump in the prostate. (During a rectal exam, the doctor inserts a gloved, lubricated finger into the rectum and feels the prostate for hard or lumpy areas.) The rectal examination should be included in medical checkups of all men older than 40 years of age.

Your doctor may also order a test to measure substances called prostate-specific antigen (PSA). The level of PSA in the blood rises in men who have prostate cancer. The test is often performed annually in men older than 50 years of age.

When symptoms occur, they are usually the result of enlargement of the prostate, which causes difficult urination or blood in the urine. In cases in which prostate cancer is discovered before it has begun to spread, the cancer can frequently be cured by surgery or radiation. When the disease has spread, usually only its symptoms are treated as they occur.

Now that you know the symptoms and causes of the major forms of cancers, you can be better informed when you detect any warning signs. As always, if you suspect cancer, you should see your doctor immediately.

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This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.