Bladder cancer occurs when cancer cells develop in the bladder lining and grow into the bladder wall. In the United States, nearly 74,690 people will be diagnosed with bladder cancer this year and approximately 15,580 people will die from the disease. When found early, the chance of survival is greater. Since the 1980s, the survival rate has increased due to improved awareness and better treatments options.
Data pulled from the American Cancer Society, Cancer Facts and Figures 1999 – June 2014.
- Smoking – is the greatest risk factor for bladder cancer. Chemicals from tobacco can enter the blood stream, through the lungs, and are filtered by the liver and collect in the bladder. These chemicals damage the cells that line the inside bladder wall.
- Work exposure – some professions are more susceptible to harmful chemicals. These occupations include: dye makers, hairdressers, truck drivers, machinists, printers, painters, leather workers and rubber manufacturers.
- Race – Caucasians are twice as likely to develop bladder cancer as African Americans or Hispanics.
- Gender – men develop bladder cancer four times as often as women.
- Age – the risk of developing bladder cancer increases with age.
- Family history – the chance of developing bladder cancer rises when immediate family members have or had the disease.
- Chronic bladder inflammation – urinary infections, kidney stones and bladder stones do not cause cancer, but they are linked to the disease.
- Arsenic – this chemical in drinking water is linked to an increased risk of bladder cancer.
- Bladder birth defects – very rarely a connection between the belly button and the bladder doesn’t disappear as it should before birth and can become cancerous. There is another, very rare, birth defect called exstrophy which can lead to bladder cancer.
- Inadequate liquid intake – people who drink plenty of liquids each day have a lower risk of developing bladder cancer.
- Earlier Treatment – Some drugs or radiation used to treat other cancers can increase the risk of bladder cancer.
Signs and Symptoms
Anyone experiencing any of these symptoms should consult their healthcare provider immediately.
- Blood in the urine
- Frequent urination
- Feeling the need to urinate, but not being able to
Screening tests are performed to determine the presence of abnormal or cancerous cells. There are various ways to screen for bladder cancer. Each method may be used alone, or in combination.
- Cystoscopy – allows a physician to view the inside of the bladder through a small tube with a lens and a light. The physician may perform a biopsy at this time.
- Urine cytology – involves testing the urine or cells “washed” from the bladder.
- Urine culture – involves testing the urine
- Imaging tests – allows the doctors to better see your bladder and provide more information.
When cancer is found, a physician will need to determine the progression of the cancer. This classification, called staging, allows the healthcare provider to properly identify a treatment plan and to determine the prognosis. All cancers are staged on a roman numeral scale, of I-IV(1-4), where the higher stage represents more advanced cancer.
There are many treatment options for bladder cancer, including chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery. Each method may be used alone, or in combination.
- Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. The drugs are administered orally by pills or injected directly into the bloodstream. They travel throughout the body to reach cancer cells that may have spread beyond the point of origin.
- Radiation therapy is the use of high-energy rays to kill cancer cells in the treatment area. It is mostly administered externally from a machine outside the body, similar to an x-ray, but for a longer period of time.
- Surgery treats the cancer by removing the cancerous tissue. The type of surgery required depends on the stage of the cancer.
- Tansurethral Surgery – involves removing cancer tissue through a small tube. No major abdominal incision.
- Partial Cystectomy – involves the removal of sections of the bladder.
- Radical Cystectomy – involves the removal of the entire bladder and the surrounding lymph nodes. Reconstructive surgery will be necessary after this procedure.