Bladder cancer in the elderly
Understanding bladder cancer
There are three types of bladder cancer, namely:
Transitional cell carcinoma/ urothelial carcinoma
Squamous cell carcinoma
Squamous cell carcinoma is a type of skin cancer that starts in the squamous cells, which are flat, scale-like cells in the outermost layer of the skin. Squamous cell carcinoma can also develop in other parts of the body, such as the lining of the digestive tract, the respiratory tract, and the genital area.
The leading cause of squamous cell carcinoma is exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or tanning beds, which damages the DNA in the skin cells and can lead to cancerous changes. Other risk factors for squamous cell carcinoma include a weakened immune system, exposure to chemicals or radiation, and a history of skin cancer.
Symptoms of squamous cell carcinoma can include a persistent sore or scaly patch on the skin, a firm red nodule, a flat lesion with a scaly crust, or a wart-like growth. Treatment for squamous cell carcinoma may involve surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or a combination of these therapies, depending on the location and extent of the cancer.
Adenocarcinoma is a type of cancer that develops in the epithelial cells responsible for producing and secreting fluids like mucus and hormones. Adenocarcinoma can occur in many different body organs, such as the lungs, colon, pancreas, prostate, breast, and stomach.
The exact cause of adenocarcinoma is not well understood. Still, it is believed to be related to genetic mutations and environmental factors such as smoking, exposure to radiation, and certain chemicals. In addition, some types of adenocarcinoma are associated with specific risk factors. For example, smoking is a risk factor for lung adenocarcinoma, and a diet high in red and processed meats is a risk factor for colorectal adenocarcinoma.
Symptoms of adenocarcinoma depend on the location and extent of the cancer but can include weight loss, fatigue, pain, swelling, and changes in bowel or bladder habits. Treatment for adenocarcinoma may consist of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted therapy, or a combination of these treatments, depending on the type and stage of cancer.
Risk factors for bladder cancer
A long-standing history of bladder infections
Recurrent bladder infections
Being an elderly male
Consumption of low fluids
Exposure to carcinogens
A family history of bladder cancer
Consuming a high-fat diet
Being previously treated for cancer using chemotherapy and radiation therapy
Symptoms of bladder cancer
Hematuria is characterized by blood in the urine. This is usually the first sign of bladder cancer. The color of the urine can change depending on the amount of blood present. In many cases, blood may appear once, and the urine continues to be clear for weeks together. However, if the elderly have developed bladder cancer, then the blood will reappear. Therefore, the appearance of blood in the urine will not always mean that there is bladder cancer.
Pain in the pelvis
Bowel habits change yet another notable sign of bladder cancer. This includes pain or a burning sensation while urinating. Frequent urination (in this, it is the urge to urinate frequently, even if the bladder is not complete) and urinary incontinence. Older people may also experience trouble urinating or a weak urine stream emptying the bladder.
Inability to urinate
A backache, especially in the lower back region
Weight loss and fatigue
Unexplained loss of appetite
Bone pain along with tenderness
Swelling in one or both the feet
In many cases, when the symptoms of bladder cancer first appear, cancer has spread to other body parts. Therefore, you must consult a doctor immediately if you are experiencing any of these symptoms. Early diagnosis and treatment of bladder cancer can significantly improve the chances of a successful outcome.
Treating bladder cancer in the elderly
The various forms of treatment for bladder cancer include the following:
Surgery – to remove the cancerous tissues
Chemotherapy – Systemic and intravesical–is done to improve the chances of curing cancer. This happens either before the surgery or after it.
Reconstruction – Creating an altogether new pathway for urine elimination from the body.
Radiation therapy – An additional method for destroying cancer cells.
Immunotherapy – A therapy targeted at strengthening the immune system to make it capable of fighting off cancer cells.
Cancer support for the advanced stage of bladder cancer
Examples of such organizations include the following:
Cancer Support Community
American Cancer Society
Cancer Hope Network
Tips and suggestions to help with the symptoms
- Yoga is terrific for enhancing the physical and emotional health
- Heating pads to relieve pain in the lower back or abdomen
- Body pillow and wedges to help with sleeping positions
- Eat five smaller meals rather than three big meals
- Drink plenty of fluids to keep hydrated
How can caregivers help their loved ones with bladder cancer?
Caregivers can play a vital role in helping their loved ones cope with bladder cancer by providing emotional and practical support throughout the treatment process. Here are some ways caregivers can help:
- Be supportive and empathetic: Let your loved one know that you are there for them and that you understand what they are going through. Listen to their concerns and fears, and offer reassurance and encouragement.
- Help with daily activities: As your loved one undergoes treatment, they may experience fatigue or other symptoms that make it difficult to carry out daily activities. Offer to help with cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, or running errands.
- Accompany them to appointments: Offer to accompany your loved one to their medical appointments, take notes, and ask questions on their behalf. This can help ensure that they get the care they need and understand their treatment options.
- Manage medications: Help your loved one keep track of their medications, schedule appointments, and manage any side effects or symptoms.
- Encourage healthy habits: Encourage your loved one to adopt healthy habits such as eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and quitting smoking (if applicable). These habits can help boost their overall health and improve their response to treatment.
- Seek support: Encourage your loved one to seek help from support groups, counseling, or other resources. Consider joining a support group for caregivers as well, as it can be helpful to connect with others who are going through a similar experience.
Remember, caring for a loved one with bladder cancer can be challenging, but it is also an opportunity to provide love and support during a difficult time.
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