First and foremost, it is important that should you recognise any of the early signs and symptoms of bladder cancer, that you visit your GP and seek professional help. The Arquer Diagnostics blog has touched upon this topic before, so do go back and refresh your memory on signs and symptoms to watch out for. As an example, blood in your urine is an immediate cause for concern which should be discussed with your GP, who will then review your symptoms and the possible causes of bladder cancer, as well as assessing your family history. If bladder cancer is suspected, a physical examination, a urine test, or both might be undertaken before a hospital referral is made.
Cystoscopy, MRI or CT Scan
At your hospital appointment, it is most likely that you’ll first be offered a cystoscopy, which is considered the current gold standard in bladder cancer diagnosis. A cystoscope is used to examine the inside of your bladder by passing a thin tube with a small light and camera at the end through your urethra. Steps are taken to minimise discomfort as much as possible.
If your specialist feels that a more detailed picture of your bladder is needed, you may then be referred for either an MRI or a CT scan. Upon the discovery of any abnormalities, an operation known as TURBT is usually offered so that a sample of abnormal tissue can be removed and tested. It will then be possible to determine the grade and stage of any cancer from these results, which means how far the cancer has spread and how likely it is to spread further.
From here, a treatment plan will be devised by a multidisciplinary team (MDT) of specialists, which may include a urologist, a clinical oncologist, a radiologist and a pathologist. A clinical nurse specialist will be your first port of call in terms of communication with your MDT, as well as any questions you may have. While your team works together to make recommendations and decisions regarding the best possible care for you depending on the stage, grade and type of cancer you suffer with, the final decision is always yours to make. This is why it is important to always ask any and all questions that you may have.
In the unfortunate circumstance that your bladder cancer is so far advanced that it can’t be cured, your MDT will explain how they expect the cancer to progress and what could be done to ease your symptoms, at which point you may be referred to a Palliative Care team.
Here we have only touched upon the complexity of bladder cancer diagnosis and treatment, which is why we urge you to ask questions and develop your understanding of the disease and the care processes. Don’t hesitate to get in touch, visit your GP and browse the Arquer Diagnostics blog for more helpful information.