Smoking and Bladder Cancer

When peo­ple think of smok­ing and its link to can­cer, the first thing that may come to mind is lung can­cer. But what many peo­ple do not real­ize is that tobac­co use is the sin­gle most impor­tant known risk fac­tor for blad­der can­cer. Accord­ing to the Amer­i­can Can­cer Soci­ety, smok­ers are at least three times more like­ly to get blad­der can­cer than nonsmokers. 

Why Smok­ing Caus­es Blad­der Cancer

There are more than 7,000 dif­fer­ent chem­i­cals in tobac­co and tobac­co smoke, with more than 70 of them known to cause can­cer. When smok­ing, these chem­i­cals are absorbed into your blood, passed through your kid­neys and col­lect­ed in your urine. While urine sits in your blad­der wait­ing to be expelled, the blad­der is exposed to these high­ly con­cen­trat­ed chem­i­cals, often for hours at a time. These chem­i­cals can dam­age the lin­ing of your blad­der, increas­ing your risk of devel­op­ing cancer.

When iden­ti­fied at an ear­ly stage, blad­der can­cer can be high­ly cur­able. There is cur­rent­ly no rou­tine screen­ing for blad­der can­cer avail­able, so it’s impor­tant to watch out for its symp­toms. This is espe­cial­ly crit­i­cal if you cur­rent­ly smoke or were pre­vi­ous­ly a smok­er to ensure you catch blad­der can­cer as ear­ly as possible. 

Blad­der Can­cer Symptoms

Some symp­toms of blad­der can­cer include:

  • Blood in the urine
  • Fre­quent or burn­ing urination
  • Feel­ing the need to uri­nate, but unable to pass urine
  • Feel­ing the need to uri­nate many times through­out the night
  • Back pain

Ear­ly detec­tion allows doc­tors to remove small tumors using min­i­mal­ly inva­sive endo­scop­ic surgery. Blad­der can­cer can also be treat­ed with chemother­a­py, immunother­a­pies, more inva­sive sur­gi­cal pro­ce­dures and medications. 

With the increased risk to smok­ers of devel­op­ing blad­der can­cer, efforts towards smok­ing ces­sa­tion is crit­i­cal to try to pre­vent this dis­ease. Over time, many for­mer smok­ers’ risk of blad­der can­cer will decrease after they have quit smoking. 

If you devel­op any blad­der can­cer symp­toms or are con­cerned that you may have an increased risk for devel­op­ing blad­der can­cer, sched­ule an appoint­ment with a urol­o­gist. If you would like more infor­ma­tion about smok­ing ces­sa­tion and what next steps you can take, sched­ule an appoint­ment with your pri­ma­ry care physi­cian.

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