The Benefit of Routine Bladder Cancer Screenings

What is Bladder Cancer?

Bladder cancer is a disease in which abnormal cells begin to grow in the cells that line the bladder. Screening tests are done to look for cancer when there are no signs or symptoms. Currently, there is no screening test available for bladder cancer. However, the symptoms of bladder cancer will be reviewed, and some tests might be ordered if bladder cancer is suspected.

Bladder cancer risk factors

The risk factors for the development of bladder cancer can include the following:

● Smoking cigarettes

● Exposure to certain chemicals, including those used in the businesses of making leather, paint products, and rubber

● Exposure to arsenic

● White race

● Male sex

● History of chronic urinary tract infections

● Family history of bladder cancer

● History of radiation to the pelvic area

● Long-term use of urinary catheters


Bladder cancer symptoms

The symptoms of bladder cancer include:

● Blood in the urine

● Frequent urination

● Pain with urination

● Unable to urinate

● Lower back pain

● Feeling very fatigued

● Weight loss and loss of appetite


If your healthcare provider is suspicious of bladder cancer or is ordering tests to evaluate any symptoms that are being experienced, the following are some tests they may order.

Urine tests can be done to look for the presence of blood or other abnormalities in the urine. A urine cytology test can be done to see if any cancer cells are present. A urine culture can be done to see if any bacteria are growing.

A cystoscopy can be done if bladder cancer is suspected. During this procedure, a thin camera is placed into the bladder through the urethra, the opening to the outside of the body through which urine passes. The urologist can look at the wall of the bladder to see if any cancer is present. If there are any suspicious areas, a biopsy can be taken to test for cancer cells.

Other imaging tests may also be done, most likely after the diagnosis of bladder cancer and the healthcare provider is looking for signs of cancer has spread to other areas of the body. These tests can include CT scans, MRIs, or ultrasounds.

It is important to be aware of the risk factors and symptoms associated with bladder cancer, as well as available screening options. Early detection is key to successful treatment, so please talk to your doctor if you have any concerns.

Together, we can help make a difference in the fight against bladder cancer.

What you need to know about colon cancer screenings

What is Colorectal Cancer?

Colorectal cancer is a disease of abnormal cells developing in the digestive organs of the intestines or rectum. When abnormal cells develop in either the colon or rectum, cancer starts. Colorectal cancer most often starts growing in polyps, which can be precancerous lesions in the colon.

Screening tests for colorectal cancer are meant to catch the cancer (if present) at an early stage before it’s causing any symptoms. Per the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, colon cancer screening is recommended for those aged 45 to 75. Those who are aged 76 to 85 should have a conversation with their healthcare provider about the need to continue screening.

Multiple screening options exist for colorectal cancer.

These include:

● Stool tests

● Flexible sigmoidoscopy

● Colonoscopy

● CT colonography


Stool tests

There are tests that can be run on samples of stool. The sample is generally collected at home and returned to a lab for testing. One test, called a fecal occult blood test, looks for the presence of blood in the stool that isn’t visible to the naked eye.

Another stool test is called a FIT-DNA test. FIT stands for fecal immunochemical test, which looks for blood in the stool. It is combined with a DNA test that looks for the presence of any DNA changes which might suggest the presence of cancer.

Flexible sigmoidoscopy

A flexible sigmoidoscopy is a test in which a flexible camera is inserted into the rectum. This looks for the presence of cancer cells in the rectum and lower third of the colon. This test does not evaluate the entire colon.


A colonoscopy is a test which looks at the rectum and the entire colon. It can be done as a screening test itself or is done if any of the other screening tests are positive and there is a need for further evaluation. In the day or two before a colonoscopy, laxative medications will be taken to help induce frequent bowel movements to clean out the colon so the gastroenterologist will be able to see the colon well. The procedure is done with sedation so you’re not awake during the procedure.

If there are any suspicious areas in the colon, such as polyps, they can be removed during the colonoscopy and tested to see if cancer cells are present.

CT colonography

This exam, sometimes referred to as a virtual colonoscopy, it is performed using a CT (computed tomography) scan. Using a CT machine, pictures are taken of the colon and images are reconstructed to look for any suspicious areas. This type of test may be best for people who are at risk for complications of anesthesia needed for standard colonoscopy.


Early detection is key in colon cancer, and screening is the best way to achieve that. Screening tests can find precancerous polyps so they can be removed before becoming cancer. They can also find colon cancer early when it is easier to treat. The bottom line is this: if you are 50 years old or older, you should get screened for colon cancer.

Speak with your doctor about which test is right for you, and get screened regularly. It could save your life.

Colorectal cancer

What is Colorectal cancer?

Colorectal cancer also referred to as CRC, is cancer that starts somewhere inside the colon or rectum of the digestive system. It is the third most common cancer in the United States for both men and women, and although rates of CRC overall have been decreasing, the rates have actually been going up for younger adults. 

CRC starts off by abnormal cells developing in the colon or rectum. These often start out by becoming polyps, small growths of tissue along the intestinal wall. Not all polyps will become cancer, and if they do, it can take many years for them to develop into cancer. 

Signs and Symptoms

Someone may have colon cancer and not have any signs or symptoms of it being there. This is what makes screening tests so important, so cancer can be caught before it becomes advanced. If someone does have symptoms, they may include:

  • Changes in bowel patterns (such as diarrhea or constipation)
  • Fatigue
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Blood in the stool, or dark or tarry stool
  • Abdominal pain

Diagnostic Tests

If someone is having symptoms that may be concerning for CRC, a stool sample can be obtained to check for blood in the stool that might not be visible to the naked eye. If this test is positive, it’s likely a colonoscopy will be ordered. 

Not only are colonoscopies suggested if blood is present in the stool, but it may also be recommended to be done as a screening tool to detect colon cancer early.  During this procedure, a special camera is inserted into the rectum and moved up into the large intestine to evaluate the lining and look for any abnormalities. If a polyp or any area of abnormality is found, it can be biopsied and tested for cancer cells. A colonoscopy requires a day or so of preparation, where no solid foods are eaten, only clear liquids are to be consumed, and large amounts of laxatives are used to clean out the colon. This prep allows the gastroenterologist performing the procedure to get the best look possible at the intestinal wall. 

Once a diagnosis of CRC is made, the oncologist will likely order additional tests to learn the characteristics of the cancer. This can include molecular testing to see if there are any mutations present, such as BRAF, NRAS, or KRAS. Knowing if these mutations are present can help the oncologist come up with a treatment plan. 

Additional testing, such as CT scans or PET scans may also be done to determine if CRC has spread to any other areas of your body. Once all of the testing is complete, your oncologist can stage the cancer. 


Are you interested in learning more about colorectal cancer staging? Check out our next article on this topic.


The Little-known Cancer – Cancer of Unknown Primary (CUP)

CUP, also known as Cancer of unknown primary, is Cancer that has metastasized from another body part. The site where it began, also called the primary site, is unknown in this case.

Why CUP is a challenging cancer?

Cancer of unknown primary is often challenging because it tends to be aggressive and spreads to many body parts when found. Only 2 to 5% of CUP cancers are diagnosed in the U.S. In addition, because the origin of this type of Cancer is unknown, it often is challenging to choose the best treatment. CUPs are usually found in the lymph nodes, liver, lung, peritoneum (lining of the bowel), or bone, and thanks to better diagnostics and screening, they are becoming less common nowadays.

What are the primary causes?

Because the primary site of many of these cancers is unknown, it is hard to predict the primary cause. Even in cases where the primary location is found, the type of Cancer determines the possible risk factors.

Types of CUP cancers

Even when an Oncologists is unable to determine the initial site where the Cancer began, A further microscopic inspection of the cancer cells concludes the Cancer falling into one of the following categories:

  • Neuroendocrine carcinoma: These are cancers that begin in specialized cells called neuroendocrine cells and have traits similar to those of nerve cells and hormone-producing cells. Neuroendocrine tumors are rare and can occur anywhere in the body. Most of this happens in the lungs, appendix, small intestine, rectum, and pancreas.
  • Poorly differentiated carcinoma: Cancer cells are present in this type of CUP, but they do not have enough detail for an oncologist to decide the type of Cancer. Around 10% of these CUP cases are lymphoma, melanoma, or sarcoma.
  • Adenocarcinomas: In six of every ten cancers of unknown primary are adenocarcinomas, beginning in gland cells, with the primary sites in the lung, pancreas, breast, prostate, stomach, liver, or colon.
  • Squamous cell cancer: These cells are flat, similar to cells on the skin or linings of some organs


What are the Symptoms of Cancer of Unknown Primary?

While the Symptoms of Cancer of unknown primary (CUP) vary from person to person and depend on where Cancer has spread, patients often experience it.

  • Swollen lymph nodes that are not painful but firm.
  • Abdominal Mass that can be felt from the outside, often causing a feeling of fullness after a small meal
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain in the chest or abdomen
  • Pain in the bones
  • Skin tumors
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Lack of appetite or unexplained weight loss


How is CUP Diagnosed?

If an oncologist suspects Cancer of unknown primary, one or more of the following tests may be performed for an accurate diagnosis.

  1. Biopsy
    1. Fine needle aspiration (FNA)
    2. Core needle biopsy
    3. Excisional biopsy
    4. Incisional biopsy
    5. Bone marrow aspiration and biopsy
  2. Blood and urine tests
  3. Imaging tests, which may include
    1. X-rays
    2. CT or CAT computed axial tomography) scans
    3. MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans
    4. Ultrasound
    5. PET (positron emission tomography) scans
  4. Endoscopy
  5. Colonoscopy


What are the available Treatments?

  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Brachytherapy
  • 3D-conformal radiation therapy
  • Intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT)
  • Proton therapy
  • Targeted therapies


Finally, Cancer of unknown primary is rare, and it’s essential to be aware of the symptoms and see a doctor immediately if you experience any of them. With early diagnosis and treatment, many people with this type of Cancer can beat the disease successfully.


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