Bladder cancer is a malignant disease of the mucosa of the bladder. Men are affected by it more frequently than women. Smoking is the most important risk factor. In the early stages, the tumour in the mucosa can be removed under local anaesthetic. If the disease is further advanced, the entire bladder may have to be removed.
Around 1,200 people are diagnosed with bladder cancer in Switzerland every year. Around three quarters of them are men. Bladder cancer occurs primarily in old age. Around 60% of people affected are more than 70 years old at the time of diagnosis.
It has not been conclusively determined why cancer develops in the mucosa of the bladder. However, some risk factors which can facilitate the occurrence of bladder cancer are known. The most important of these is smoking. In addition, chronic bladder infections, high consumption of painkillers as well as certain chemicals known as amines are known to be risk factors. Aromatic amines are found in dyes, for example.
Bladder cancer causes very few or no symptoms at all for a long time. The disease is therefore frequently only detected late or accidentally during a cystoscopy or a urine examination. The first and most important indication of bladder cancer is blood in the urine. Discolouration of the urine should therefore always be checked by a doctor. At a later stage, the cancer can cause frequent urination, burning during urination or lower abdominal pain. However, such symptoms occur far more often in people with a bladder infection or in the case of bladder stones than in those with bladder cancer.
Bladder cancer is diagnosed with a cystoscopy. It involves feeding an endoscope with a camera through the urethra into the bladder.
If the bladder cancer is restricted to the mucosa and has not yet grown into the bladder wall, the tumour can be removed by using a cystoscopy. If the tumour has grown into the bladder wall, the entire bladder must often be removed and replaced with an artificial bladder made of intestinal tissue. You can find out more about this procedure in the bladder surgery section. Additional radiotherapy and chemotherapy are often carried out after the surgery.
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