Mary Calvagna, MS
The bladder is located in the lower abdomen. It is a hollow organ with flexible muscular walls. It stores urine until a person is ready to urinate. Bladder cancer is a disease in which cancer cells grow in the bladder.
Cancer occurs when cells in the body, in this case bladder cells, divide without control or order. Sometimes, cells divide uncontrollably when new cells are not needed. A mass of tissue called a growth or tumor can form. The term cancer refers to malignant tumors. Malignant tumors can invade nearby tissue and spread to other parts of the body.
Three main types of cancer affect the bladder. They are named for the type of cell that becomes cancerous:
The cause of bladder cancer is unknown. However, several risk factors have been identified.
Factors that may increase your chance of developing bladder cancer include:
These symptoms may be caused by other less serious health conditions, such as bladder stones or infection. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, see your physician.
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Your doctor will feel the abdomen and pelvis for abnormalities. The physical exam may include a rectal or vaginal exam.
Staging tests are done after bladder cancer is found. These tests find out if the cancer has spread and, if so, to what parts of the body. Treatments for bladder cancer depend on the stage of the cancer. The stages of bladder cancer are:
Treatment options include:
Surgery involves removing cancerous cells and nearby tissue. Types of surgery to treat bladder cancer include transurethral resection and cystectomy.
is the use of radiation to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation may be:
is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy may be given in many forms, including pill, injection, or via a catheter. The drugs enter the bloodstream and travel through the body killing mostly cancer cells, but also some healthy cells. For bladder cancer, chemotherapy is often given directly into the bladder. This is called intravesical chemotherapy.
Biologic therapy is the use of the body’s immune system to fight cancer. Substances made by the body or in a laboratory are given directly into the bladder to help boost, direct, or restore the body’s defenses against the cancer.
This type of therapy is used only for superficial low-grade cancers that have been resected transurethrally.
The following steps can reduce your risk of getting bladder cancer:
American Cancer Society
National Cancer Institute
BC Cancer Agency
Canadian Cancer Society
Bladder cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/cancer/bladdercancer. Accessed June 5, 2013.
Bladder cancer. Urology Care Foundation website. Available at: http://www.urologyhealth.org/urology/index.cfm?article=100. Updated March 2013. Accessed June 5, 2013.
Torpy JM. Bladder cancer. JAMA. 2005;293(7):890. Available at:
http://jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/full/293/7/890. Accessed November 15, 2012.
What you need to know about bladder cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at
http://www.cancer.gov/cancerinfo/wyntk/bladder. Updated August 30, 2010. Accessed June 5, 2013.
Last reviewed May 2014 by Mohei Abouzied, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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