How To Effectively Help With Bladder Cancer Now- The Caregiving Strategist

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Bladder cancer in the elderly


Bladder cancer is a horrible disease. I went through this disease with my father. He passed away in December 2017. It seems to be a disease of the aging population; about 9 out of 10 people have been diagnosed with it at 73 years. With the various advances in medical science, the life expectancy rate has increased to a great extent. And then the elderly population is going to double by the year 2050. The chance men will develop this cancer during their life is about 1 in 27. For women, the chance is about 1 in 89. Whites are more likely to be diagnosed with bladder cancer than African Americans or Hispanics.
According to the statistics provided by the national cancer association. About 55% of cases of bladder cancer are in the elderly aged 70 years and above. And about 23% of patients are in the elderly old 80 years and above.

Understanding bladder cancer

IBladder cancer develops in the cells of the bladder, a hollow organ located in the lower abdomen that stores urine until it is ready to be excreted from the body. The most common type of bladder cancer is called urothelial carcinoma or transitional cell carcinoma, which starts in the urothelial cells lining the inside of the bladder. Bladder cancer can cause symptoms such as blood in the urine, pain during urination, and frequent urination. Depending on the stage and type of cancer, treatment for bladder cancer may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or a combination of these therapies.

There are three types of bladder cancer, namely:

  • Transitional cell carcinoma/ urothelial carcinoma

This happens to be the most common form of cancer. As the name suggests, cancer initiates in the urothelial cells of the bladder. Urothelial carcinoma is further divided into two subgroups flat and papillary. Of these two types, papillary carcinoma appears to be more common. In flat urothelial carcinoma, cancer grows flat on the bladder wall. Whereas in papillary urothelial carcinoma, the tumor grows in finger-like projections. Which appears finger-like towards the center of the bladder.
  • 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

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

Smoking is one of the most significant risk factors for bladder cancer. Smoking is accountable for more than 50% of all cases of bladder cancer. In addition to tobacco, the other risk factors include:
  • 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.

Advanced Symptoms

The symptoms mentioned above are usually experienced in the preliminary stages. When cancer has reached more advanced settings, the elderly may experience the following symptoms:
  • 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

Treating bladder cancer in the elderly is a real challenge, with the life expectancy rate decreasing in advanced cases. In addition, the quality of life also gets significantly compromised owing to the various treatments.
The decision to treat the patients or not treat them is tough. The quality of life should be the determining factor. Furthermore, managing high-grade cancer in the elderly is challenging and costly. In addition, statics show that elderly cancer patients fail to receive the same care as their younger counterparts. Which again becomes a matter of grave concern. While surgery to remove the tumor, chemotherapy and radiation therapy remains the primary treatment methods.

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

Dealing with stage 4 bladder cancer can be overwhelming and tricky for our elderly loved ones. I know firsthand and can account for how overwhelming it can be, from getting treated for destroying the cancer cells to managing the symptoms. The entire process can become challenging to handle. Taking care of oneself is essential to handle the stress and pressure of the treatment regime. In addition, talking to friends, family, and support groups can help your loved ones feel better.
Joining a support group would ensure a sense of physical and emotional well-being. Getting a hold of a support group is not at all difficult and can be either searched online or by asking your doctors and other relatives. The best thing is to enroll in a local support group. These groups organize a get-together kind of session once or twice a month. People with the same disease can share their thoughts, apprehensions, and fears. Such activity can help our loved ones deal with cancer much more positively.
These support groups often conduct teaching sessions for the patients and their family members. It helps my father and me massively. The groups teach them about the disease and various coping methods.
In addition, to support groups, many National Organizations provide education about cancer and support to patients.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Manage medications: Help your loved one keep track of their medications, schedule appointments, and manage any side effects or symptoms.
  5. 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.
  6. 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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Battling bladder cancer is a very tough journey. Many elderlies refuse treatment, as their frail bodies cannot bear the side effects. For such patients, support care or palliative care becomes the best alternative. As caregivers, therefore, we need to be around our loved ones to help them deal with the disease. Also, it does not hurt to help get organized to help our loved ones feel a sense of peace. My father’s main concern was that his affairs were in order, so I had no problems.

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