Spinal Cord Injury and the Risks of Bladder Cancer

Whether you are a non-disabled person or a spinal cord injury survivor, it’s important to understand the risk factors associated with bladder cancer. Craig Hospital in Englewood, Colorado, provides a helpful resource to patients and family members, offering insight into the factors that increase the risk for bladder cancer.

The two most common types of bladder cancer are transitional cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Transitional cell carcinoma is the most common type of bladder cancer reported in the United States. Squamous cell carcinoma has a “greater incidence in those with spinal cord injury,” although this type of cancer is rare.

Bladder irritation increases the risks of bladder cancer, and this irritation occurs in a variety of ways. A spinal cord injury changes the environment inside the bladder, resulting in irritation. One source of irritation is when a power wheelchair patient contracts a urinary tract infection (UTI). The UTI releases a substance called nitrosamine, which enhances the development of cancer. Another irritation source are bladder stones, which may form from a stray hair, grit or sediment. It is a vicious cycle as bladder stones create irritation, resulting in urinary tract infections, causing even further irritation in the bladder. Research suggests that indwelling catheters are another source of irritation and increase cancer risk for power wheelchair users. Researchers report that the risk for bladder cancer is greater based on the amount of time that the indwelling catheter has been in place.

While spinal cord injury survivors with indwelling catheters may have an increased risk for bladder cancer, Craig Hospital suggests they adopt steps to help reduce the risk. These steps include taking prescribed anticholinergic medications, drinking green tea, and using newer, less irritating hydrophilic catheters and changing them often.

There are a few other factors that increase the risk for bladder cancer. According to Craig Hospital, per research conducted by the American Bladder Cancer Society, smokers are two to three times more likely to get bladder cancer than non-smokers. Additional factors that may play a role in increasing the risk of bladder cancer are occupation, not drinking enough water and poor diet. A job that exposes an individual to high levels of carcinogens increases the risk. Also, studies show that people who consume plenty of fluids and eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables reduce their risk of bladder cancer.

To learn more information and download a helpful PDF, click here.