Bladder Cancer

Bladder Cancer

Bladder cancer is a type of cancer that develops in the bladder. It occurs when cells that line the inside of the bladder grow abnormally, forming a tumor. Bladder cancer affects 68,000 people in the U.S. per year. Bladder cancer is defined by the type of cell it originates from. Treatment tends to vary by type of cancer.

Bladder cancer is categorized into categories based on how far they have spread into the bladder wall.

These categories include:

  • Non-invasive bladder cancer: This is where the cancer is still within the bladder wall and has not spread deeper into the bladder.
  • Invasive bladder cancer: This is where the cancer is still within the bladder wall and has spread deeper into the bladder.

Bladder cancer is defined by the following types:

  • Adenocarcinoma: This type of cancer forms in cells that make up the mucus-secreting glands of the bladder. Adenocarcinoma is rare in the U.S. Most adenocarcinomas are invasive.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma: This type of cancer is also very rare in the U.S. and is typically found where a specific parasitic infection known as schistosomiasis is the primary cause of bladder infections. Squamous cell carcinoma is associated with chronic bladder irritation.
  • Transitional cell carcinoma / Urothelial carcinoma: This type of cancer forms in the cells that line the bladder. It is the most common type of bladder cancer in the U.S.

Symptoms of Bladder Cancer

Symptoms of bladder cancer include:

  • Blood in the urine
  • Painful urination
  • Pelvic pain
  • Back pain
  • Frequent urination

However, these symptoms are not conclusive of bladder cancer.

Risk Factors of Bladder Cancer

Risk factors for bladder cancer include:

  • Smoking
  • Chemical Exposure
  • Chronic bladder inflammation
  • Parasitic infections

Diagnosing Bladder Cancer

Typically, your physician will begin by performing a detailed history and physical examination. A cystoscopy, a urine cytology, an intravenous pyelogram, or a CT scan may also be performed to help diagnose bladder cancer. Once the diagnosis has been confirmed, other tests may be required such as a bone scan, chest x-ray, or MRI.

The next step in the diagnosing process is to stage the cancer. Staging is determined by the invasiveness of the cancer, presence of the cancer in the lymph nodes, metastatic nature of the cancer, and tumor size. Stages of bladder cancer range from a Stage 0 where cancers are found only in the inner lining of the bladder to a Stage IV where the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes and other body organs.

Treatments for Bladder Cancer

The treatment for bladder cancer depends on multiple factors including the stage of the bladder cancer and the patient’s overall health.

For early stage bladder cancer where the tumor is small and has not yet penetrated the bladder wall, there are a number of possible treatment options.

Treatment options include:

Treatment with immunotherapy involves inserting specific medications directly into the bladder to trigger the body’s immune system to fight the cancer cells.

A TURBT is a procedure used to remove bladder cancer that is not yet invasive. The physician uses a high energy electrical current to burn away the cancer cells.

For invasive bladder cancer, where the cancer has reached deeper layers of the bladder wall, different treatments may be recommended.

A radical cystectomy involves removing the entire bladder as well as surrounding lymph nodes. For men, this would most likely include removal of the prostate and seminal vesicles. For women, the uterus, ovaries, and part of the vagina would typically be removed.

After surgery has been performed, your physician may recommend the use of chemotherapy or radiation therapy to kill any remaining cancer cells.