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Understanding Bladder Cancer and Incontinence

Know what to look for and how to properly manage bladder cancer and its effects.

The wall of the bladder has several layers, which are made up of different types of cells. Most bladder cancers start in the innermost lining of the bladder, which is called the urothelium or transitional epithelium. As the cancer grows into or through the other layers in the bladder wall, it becomes more advanced and can be harder to treat. Over time, the cancer might grow outside the bladder and into nearby structures. It might spread to nearby lymph nodes, or to other parts of the body. Depending on pre-existing conditions, your doctor may recommend routine screenings to detect, but knowing good habits and environmental exposures to avoid can lower your risk.

Steps to Avoid Bladder Cancer

  • Quit Smoking

    Smoking represents the highest risk factor in developing bladder cancer. Studies show those who smoke cigarettes are 3 times more likely to develop various types of bladder cancer (1). Quitting can lower your chances.

  • Know Your Workplace Exposures

    Depending on your profession, you may be exposed to certain industrial chemicals that increase your chances of developing bladder cancer that leads to urinary incontinence. Chemicals called aromatic amines, such as benzidine and beta-naphthylamine, which are sometimes used in the dye industry, should be avoided or handled with proper safety precautions.

  • Avoid Certain Herbal Supplements and Medications

    According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), use of the diabetes medicine pioglitazone (Actos) for more than one year may be linked with an increased risk of bladder cancer. In addition, dietary supplements containing aristolochic acid (mainly in herbs from the Aristolochia family) have been linked with an increased risk of urothelial cancers, including bladder cancer.

  • Not drinking enough fluids

    People who drink a lot of fluids, especially water, each day tend to have lower rates of bladder cancer. This might be because they empty their bladders more often, which could keep chemicals from lingering in their bladder.

  • Bladder Cancer Treatment and Incontinence

    Cancer treatments that may increase your risk of incontinence include: Radiation therapy to the pelvic area, which can irritate the bladder. Chemotherapy, because it may cause nerve damage, vomiting that strains the muscles controlling urination, or loss of hormones, which can dry out the urethra.

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