The urinary tract is the system the body uses to clear wastes and extra fluids from the blood.
Like any body system, the urinary tract can develop a number of diseases. Urinary tract infections and bladder cancer both affect the urinary tract and produce similar symptoms, though they have very different causes.
To protect yourself from bladder cancer, you need to understand how the urinary tract works and how to recognize the difference between a common infection and a serious illness.
How Does the Urinary Tract Work?
The urinary tract includes all the organs, muscles, tubes and nerves responsible for producing, storing and removing urine from the body. This includes the kidneys, ureters, bladder, urethra and sphincter muscles.
When functioning properly, the kidneys filter your blood to produce urine. Throughout the day, they send urine to the bladder through tubes called ureters for storage. When the bladder is full and you're ready to go to the bathroom, the brain signals the sphincter muscles to relax and the bladder to push urine out of the body through the urethra.
When the components of the urinary tract work together correctly, urine exits the body without trouble. If any part of the system malfunctions, however, you may have trouble emptying your bladder or holding urine for an extended time.
One common disease of the urinary tract, a urinary tract infection (UTI), can develop when urine backs up somewhere in the system. UTIs occur most often in the bladder, though they can also reach the kidneys and cause severe damage.
How Are UTIs and Bladder Cancer Related?
Many people get bladder infections at some point. As long infections are treated with antibiotics before reaching the kidneys, they generally pose little risk to overall health.
Some bladder cancer investigations have suggested that a history of chronic urinary tract infections could increase a person's risk for bladder cancer. Infections caused by the schistosomiasis parasite, for instance, almost certainly increase bladder cancer risk — however, schistosomiasis rarely causes infection in the United States.
It's possible that other types of bladder infection could increase bladder cancer risk, though current research indicates no strong connection between the two diseases.
How Are UTIs and Bladder Cancer Different?
Though UTIs likely won't cause bladder cancer, they do produce similar symptoms, which makes it difficult to tell them apart. Both bladder cancer and urinary tract infections cause symptoms like blood in the urine, a frequent need to urinate, difficulty urinating or painful urination. Unlike cancer, however, bladder infections can also cause foul smelling urine, fever and confusion.
Because bladder cancer and UTIs appear similar, you should seek medical help if you have any concerning symptoms. If UTI symptoms persist after a course of antibiotics, return to your doctor and ask for a bladder cancer test.
Getting tested is the best way to differentiate between a common infection and a more serious illness. Cxbladder is a non-invasive, urine-based test that can rule out bladder cancer and give you peace of mind.
If you're worried about bladder cancer, talk to your doctor and contact a Cxbladder representative for more information.
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