Urological Cancer Awareness Month is an observance that aims to raise awareness about cancers that affect the urinary tract and male reproductive organs. It takes place during the month of September each year. Uhapo Healthcare Services’ goal this awareness month is to educate the public about these types of cancer, their risk factors, symptoms, prevention, and available treatment options.
Guide to Urological Cancer
Men are four times more likely to get diagnosed with the disease compared to women. In India, around 18,921 cases are witnessed every year. In basic terms, urological cancers are referred to as malignancies that originate in the urinary system (kidneys, bladder, ureters, and urethra) and male reproductive organs (prostate, testicles, and penis). Here’s a general guide to urological cancer that covers key aspects –
Types of Urological Cancer
Urological cancers primarily include –
- Prostate Cancer – This is the most common cancer among men, affecting the prostate gland. Early detection through regular screenings can be crucial for effective treatment.
- Bladder Cancer – It can develop in the lining of the bladder and often presents symptoms such as blood in the urine, frequent urination, and pain during urination.
- Kidney Cancer – This type of cancer originates in the kidneys. Common symptoms may include blood in the urine, back pain, and unexplained weight loss.
- Testicular Cancer – It usually affects younger men and is characterized by the development of abnormal cells in one or both testicles. Self-examination and early detection are important.
- Penile Cancer – Although rare, this cancer can affect the penis. Its risk factors include smoking, HPV infection, and poor hygiene.
During Urological Cancer Awareness Month, UHAPO engages in educational campaigns, fundraising events, and awareness initiatives to inform the public about the importance of regular check-ups, early detection, and the significance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle to reduce the risk of urological cancers. These efforts can help save many lives by promoting early diagnosis and timely intervention.
Urological cancers can have various risk factors, and these factors can vary depending on the specific type of cancer. Here are some common risk factors associated with urological cancers –
Advancing age is a significant risk factor for many urological cancers, including prostate, bladder, and kidney cancer. The risk generally increases as individuals get older.
- Prostate cancer primarily affects men, with age and family history being significant risk factors.
- Bladder cancer is more common in men than women.
- Testicular cancer, on the other hand, primarily affects young men.
- Family History
A family history of urological cancer can increase an individual’s risk. If a close family member (parent or sibling) has had prostate, bladder, or kidney cancer, the risk may be higher.
- Genetics and Hereditary Syndromes
Some inherited genetic mutations and syndromes are associated with an increased risk of urological cancers. For example –
- Certain hereditary genetic mutations increase the risk of kidney cancer (e.g., Von Hippel-Lindau syndrome).
- Hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC), also known as Lynch syndrome, can increase the risk of urological cancers.
- Tobacco Use
Smoking is a well-established risk factor for bladder cancer. The chemicals in tobacco smoke can be absorbed into the bloodstream and excreted in the urine, potentially leading to exposure of the bladder lining to carcinogens.
- Occupational Exposures
Certain occupational exposures to chemicals and carcinogens, such as those found in the rubber, chemical, and textile industries, can increase the risk of bladder cancer.
- Chemical and Environmental Exposures
- Exposure to environmental factors, such as arsenic in drinking water, may be associated with an increased risk of bladder cancer.
- Some industrial chemicals, such as aromatic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, have been linked to an increased risk of bladder cancer.
Obesity is a risk factor for several urological cancers, including kidney and prostate cancer.
- HPV Infection
Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection is a risk factor for penile cancer. Practicing safe sex and getting vaccinated against HPV can reduce this risk.
- Chronic Kidney Disease
Individuals with chronic kidney disease may have an increased risk of developing kidney cancer.
The specific symptoms depend on the type and stage of the cancer. Here are some common symptoms associated with urological cancers –
- Prostate Cancer
- Difficulty urinating or a weak urine stream.
- Frequent urination, especially at night
- Blood in the urine or semen.
- Erectile dysfunction.
- Pain or discomfort in the pelvic area or lower back.
- Bone pain, especially in advanced stages.
- Bladder Cancer
- Blood in the urine (hematuria), which is often painless but can cause urine to appear pink, red, or brown
- Frequent urination
- Urgency to urinate
- Pain or discomfort during urination
- Pelvic pain
- Kidney Cancer
- Blood in the urine
- Flank pain or back pain that doesn’t go away
- A mass or lump in the side or abdomen
- Unexplained weight loss
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Testicular Cancer
- A painless lump or swelling in the testicle
- Heaviness or aching in the lower abdomen or scrotum
- Pain or discomfort in the testicle or scrotum
- Enlargement or change in the size or shape of a testicle
- A dull ache in the groin or lower abdomen
- Penile Cancer
- Changes in the color or thickness of the skin on the penis.
- Sores, ulcers, or lumps on the penis.
- Persistent itching, burning, or pain on the penis.
- Bleeding from the penis, especially during or after sexual intercourse.
The diagnosis of urological cancer involves a series of steps and medical tests to determine if cancer is present, identify its type, stage, and extent, and develop an appropriate treatment plan. Here’s an overview of the common diagnostic methods used –
- Medical History and Physical Examination
- The initial step often involves discussing the patient’s medical history, including risk factors, symptoms, and family history of cancer.
- A physical examination, including a pelvic or genital exam, is conducted to look for any signs of abnormalities or masses.
- Laboratory Tests
- Blood Tests – Blood tests may include measuring PSA (Prostate-Specific Antigen) levels for prostate cancer.
- Urinalysis – Urine tests may be used to detect blood or abnormal substances in the urine, which can be indicative of bladder or kidney cancer.
- Imaging Studies
Various imaging techniques can provide detailed images of the urinary tract and surrounding structures
- Ultrasound – Ultrasound may be used to visualize the kidneys, bladder, prostate, and scrotum.
- CT (Computed Tomography) Scan – CT scans are used to obtain detailed cross-sectional images of the urinary tract, including the kidneys, bladder, and nearby lymph nodes.
- MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) – MRI can provide detailed images of soft tissues and may be used for evaluating the extent of cancer in the pelvis and abdomen.
- Cystoscopy – A thin, flexible tube with a camera (cystoscope) is inserted into the bladder through the urethra to visualize the bladder lining directly.
- A biopsy involves taking a tissue sample from the suspicious area for examination under a microscope to confirm the presence of cancer and determine its type and grade.
- Types of biopsies for urological cancer may include prostate biopsies, bladder biopsies, kidney biopsies, and testicular biopsies.
Preventing urological cancers involves adopting a combination of healthy lifestyle choices and, in some cases, vaccination. Here are some strategies for the prevention of urological cancer –
- Prostate Cancer Prevention
- Diet and Nutrition – Consume a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains while limiting red meat and high-fat dairy products. Some studies suggest that diets high in fruits and vegetables may reduce prostate cancer risk.
- Physical Activity – Engage in regular physical activity, as exercise has been associated with a reduced risk of prostate cancer.
- Limit Alcohol – If you consume alcohol, do so in moderation, as excessive alcohol intake has been linked to an increased risk of prostate cancer.
- Vitamin D – Maintain adequate vitamin D levels through safe sun exposure or supplements, as vitamin D may play a role in prostate cancer prevention.
- Bladder Cancer Prevention
- Quit Smoking – Smoking is a major risk factor for bladder cancer. Quitting smoking is the single most effective way to reduce your risk.
- Occupational Safety – If you work in industries with potential exposure to carcinogens (i.e. chemicals used in dye, rubber, and leather industries), take proper precautions and follow safety guidelines.
- Stay Hydrated – Drink plenty of fluids, which may help dilute potential carcinogens in the urine and reduce bladder cancer risk.
- Kidney Cancer Prevention
- Smoking Cessation – Quit smoking, as smoking is a known risk factor for kidney cancer.
- Healthy Weight – Maintain a healthy weight through regular exercise and a balanced diet to reduce the risk of kidney cancer.
- Hydration – Stay well-hydrated to potentially reduce the concentration of harmful substances in the urine.
- Testicular Cancer Prevention
- Self-Exams – Perform regular testicular self-exams to become familiar with the normal size and shape of your testicles. This can help detect any unusual changes early.
- Protection – Wear protective gear when participating in activities that may result in trauma to the groin area.
- Penile Cancer Prevention
- HPV Vaccination – Getting vaccinated against the human papillomavirus (HPV) can reduce the risk of penile cancer, as HPV is a significant risk factor for this cancer.
- Safe Sex – Practice safe sex to reduce the risk of HPV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
- General Tips for Urological Cancer Prevention
- Regular Check-Ups – Attend routine check-ups and screenings as recommended by your healthcare provider, especially if you have risk factors or a family history of urological cancer.
- Limit Exposure – Minimize exposure to environmental carcinogens, such as chemicals and toxins, when possible.
- Healthy Lifestyle – Adopt an overall healthy lifestyle that includes regular physical activity, a balanced diet, and avoidance of excessive alcohol consumption.
Treatments for urological cancer depend on the type and stage of cancer, as well as individual patient factors. Here are some common treatment modalities for various urological cancers –
- Prostate Cancer Treatment
- Surgery – Radical prostatectomy involves the removal of the prostate gland.
- Radiation Therapy – External beam radiation or brachytherapy (internal radiation) can target and kill cancer cells.
- Hormone Therapy – Reducing the levels of male hormones (androgens) can slow cancer growth.
- Chemotherapy – It may be used for advanced prostate cancer that no longer responds to hormone therapy.
- Immunotherapy – Checkpoint inhibitors like pembrolizumab are approved for certain advanced prostate cancers.
- Bladder Cancer Treatment
- Surgery – Radical cystectomy involves removing the bladder, and urinary diversion reconstructs a way to eliminate urine.
- Intravesical Therapy – BCG (bacillus Calmette-Guérin) or chemotherapy drugs are instilled directly into the bladder.
- Radiation Therapy – External beam radiation can treat bladder cancer in some cases.
- Immunotherapy – Immune checkpoint inhibitors like atezolizumab and pembrolizumab are used for advanced bladder cancer.
- Kidney Cancer Treatment
- Surgery – Partial or radical nephrectomy involves removing part or all of the affected kidney.
- Targeted Therapy – Medications like sunitinib and pazopanib target specific molecules involved in cancer growth.
- Immunotherapy – Immune checkpoint inhibitors like nivolumab and ipilimumab may be used for advanced kidney cancer.
- Radiation Therapy – In some cases, radiation therapy can be used to treat kidney cancer, especially when surgery is not an option.
- Testicular Cancer Treatment
- Surgery – Orchiectomy involves removing the affected testicle.
- Radiation Therapy – For some types and stages of testicular cancer.
- Chemotherapy – Used for advanced or aggressive testicular cancer.
- Penile Cancer Treatment
- Surgery – Surgical removal of the cancerous tissue (partial or total penectomy).
- Radiation Therapy – For some cases of penile cancer.
- Chemotherapy – Used for advanced or metastatic penile cancer.
- Immunotherapy – Immune checkpoint inhibitors may be considered for advanced penile cancer.
If you or someone you know is at risk for urological cancer or is experiencing symptoms, it’s crucial to consult with a healthcare provider for proper evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment. Regular screenings and a healthy lifestyle can contribute to a reduced risk of these cancers. Urological Cancer Awareness Month is the best time to spread awareness and encourage proactive healthcare behaviors.