Bladder cancer strikes 77,000 people annually in the United States.
Bladder cancer is the fourth most common cancer to occur in men. There are three types of bladder cancer, with transitional cell carcinoma accounting for over 90 percent of cases in the United States. It occurs in the inner lining of the bladder, known as the urothelium.
The most common symptom of bladder cancer is bloody urine. Hematuria (blood in the urine) might be detected in a urinalysis.
Other symptoms include frequency of urination, a feeling of urgency or painful urination.
Age: Most frequently diagnosed in those ages 60-80.
Smoking: Two or three times more likely to develop bladder cancer.
Profession: Exposure to carcinogens like rubber, dyes, textiles, paint, or hairdressing supplies.
Race: Caucasians are twice as likely to develop bladder cancer compared to African-Americans or Hispanics.
Gender: Men are up to four times more likely to develop bladder cancer than women.
Family history: If another family member has had bladder cancer, you’re more likely to develop this type of cancer.
Anti-cancer drugs: Cyclophosphamide and arsenic, used to treat certain other cancers, may increase your risk.
How is Bladder Cancer Diagnosed?
A combination of tests determines if bladder cancer is present. These tests include:
A rectal exam to detect if there are masses on the bladder.
Urine tests might reveal abnormal bladder cells.
A cystoscope allows a urologist to see inside the bladder and obtain a biopsy sample.
A pathologist views the biopsy sample through a microscope to ascertain whether there are cancer cells present and the grade (severity) of cancer.
If cancer is detected, a urologist may perform a transurethral resection of bladder tumor (TURBT) while the patient is under anesthesia. The tumor is examined and resected to determine the depth that the tumor has penetrated.
This examination allows the urologist to stage cancer so that an appropriate treatment plan can be developed. Stages range from a tumor on the superficial lining of the bladder to spreading to the local lymph nodes and/or to distant nodes or to organs, like the lungs, liver or bones.
Treatments for Bladder Cancer
Treatment is individualized for each patient’s unique situation. Early stage bladder cancer may be cured with a combination of transurethral resection of bladder tumor (TURBT) and specialized medicines (Bacillus Calmette-Guerin, mitomycin C, and interferon-alpha) introduced into the bladder via urethral catheter.
Selected patients may receive chemotherapy, radiation, and transurethral surgery so that only a portion of the bladder is removed.
If the tumor has invaded the muscle wall, more extensive surgery is required. This involves complete removal of the bladder, surrounding organs, and regional lymph nodes. Surgery might be performed minimally invasively or robotically assisted.
Bladder reconstruction may also be an option. A portion of the intestine is utilized to construct a new bladder called a neo-bladder. Some patients regain urinary function while others may have to use a small catheter.