Jaime Escalante, Inspiring Teacher, Dies from Bladder Cancer

Jaime Escalante, the Los Angeles teacher who inspired the movie Stand and Deliver, has died of bladder cancer. The 79 year old, who was played by Edward James Olmos in the movie, was a math and physics teacher in his native Bolivia before emigrating to the US. Being frustrated with the apathy and low expectations  he found at his teaching position at East Los Angeles’ Garfield High School, Escalante encouraged the students and eventually got them taking advanced placement courses. He retired from teaching in 2001. In of March 2010, as he faced financial difficulties from his battle with cancer,  cast members from Stand and Deliver, including Olmos as well as former pupils, raised funds to help pay for his medical bills.

Olmos has told the Associated Press, “Jaime exposed one of the most dangerous myths of our time — that inner city students can’t be expected to perform at the highest levels… Because of him, that destructive idea has been shattered forever.”

The bladder is a hollow organ in the lower abdomen. It stores urine, the liquid waste produced by the kidneys. Urine passes from each kidney into the bladder through a tube called a ureter.

An outer layer of muscle surrounds the inner lining of the bladder. When the bladder is full, the muscles in the bladder wall can tighten to allow urination. Urine leaves the bladder through another tube, the urethra.

In the United States, bladder cancer is the fourth most common type of cancer in men and the ninth most common cancer in women. About 45,000 men and 17,000 women are diagnosed with bladder cancer each year.

There are three types of bladder cancer that begin in cells in the lining of the bladder. These cancers are named for the type of cells that become malignant:

* Transitional cell carcinoma: Cancer that begins in cells in the innermost tissue layer of the bladder. These cells are able to stretch when the bladder is full and shrink when it is emptied. Most bladder cancers begin in transitional cells.

* Squamous cell carcinoma: Cancer that begins in squamous cells, which are thin, flat cells that may form in the bladder after a long- term infection or irritation.

* Adenocarcinoma: Cancer that begins in glandular (secretory) cells that may form in the bladder after a long-term inflammation or irritation.

Symptoms of bladder cancer may include blood in the urine (hematuria), pain during urination (dysuria), frequent urination in small amounts (pollakiuria), or the feeling that one needs to urinate without results. These signs and symptoms are not specific to bladder cancer, however, and a physician should be consulted by anyone with these symptoms.

Who is at risk for bladder cancer?

Studies have found the following risk factors for bladder cancer:

  • Age: The chance of getting bladder cancer goes up as people get older. People under 40 rarely get this disease.
  • Tobacco: The use of tobacco is a major risk factor. Cigarette smokers are two to three times more likely than nonsmokers to get bladder cancer. Pipe and cigar smokers are also at increased risk.
  • Occupation. Some workers have a higher risk of getting bladder cancer because of carcinogens in the workplace. Workers in the rubber, chemical, and leather industries are at risk. So are hairdressers, machinists, metal workers, printers, painters, textile workers, and truck drivers.
  • Infections. Being infected with certain parasites increases the risk of bladder cancer. These parasites are common in tropical areas but not in the United States.
  • Treatment with cyclophosphamide or arsenic. These drugs are used to treat cancer and some other conditions. They raise the risk of bladder cancer.
  • Race. Whites get bladder cancer twice as often as African Americans and Hispanics. The lowest rates are among Asians.
  • Being a man. Men are two to three times more likely than women to get bladder cancer.
  • Family history. People with family members who have bladder cancer are more likely to get the disease. Researchers are studying changes in certain genes that may increase the risk of bladder cancer.
  • Personal history of bladder cancer. People who have had bladder cancer have an increased chance of getting the disease again.

Source: National Cancer Institute

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Mark Boguski, M.D., Ph.D. is on the faculty of Harvard Medical School and is a member of the Society for Participatory Medicine, "a movement in which networked patients shift from being mere passengers to responsible drivers of their health" and in which professional health care providers encourage "empowered patients" and value them as full partners in managing their health and wellness.

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