In the United States, we diagnose approximately 75,000 new cases of bladder cancer every year. Men are much more commonly affected than women – 80% of cancers are in men and 20% are in women.
There are several risk factors that have been identified for developing bladder cancer. They include:
- Cigarette smoking
- Exposure to some industrial chemicals and paints
- Bladder infections with certain parasites
- Artificial sweeteners (this is controversial – not all research shows this)
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
The problem with most cancers is that we do not have early detection methods for most small tumors. Cancers need to grow to a certain size to cause symptoms or signs. However, most bladder cancers give warning signs when they are relatively small. Some of the signs and symptoms of bladder cancer are:
- Blood in the urine
- Sudden, urgent needs to urinate
- Lower abdominal pain or a mass
- A slow urine stream
- Weight loss
- Pelvic pain
- Painful urination
ARE ALL BLADDER CANCER THE SAME?
No, there are several types including:
Transitional cell carcinoma – by far this is the most common form of bladder cancer. It starts in the most superficial lining of the bladder. Over time, it grows into the deeper layers of the bladder. It if reached the bladder muscle layers treatment is more difficult and not always successful
Carcinoma in situ – While this is a cancer that is superficial, it can be very aggressive and spread fairly quickly.
Squamous cell cancer – this is a very aggressive bladder cancer and makes up about 10% of all bladder cancers.
Adenocarcinoma – this is relatively rare and that is a good thing because can also be very aggressive. They have a solid appearance
HOW ARE BLADDER CANCERS DIAGNOSED?
The most important test is a cystoscopy. A small telescope is inserted into the urethra and passed into the bladder so we can see what is inside the bladder. Telescopes can either be rigid or flexible. Many use modern camera chip technology for improved visualization.
X-rays and ultrasounds – CT scans and pelvic ultrasounds can often find bladder cancers. However, if they are very small only a cystoscopy can usually detect them.
Urine tests – a special urine test, called a urine cytology, can alert us to the potential of a bladder cancer.
HOW IS BLADDER CANCER TREATED?
Most bladder cancers are small when diagnosed and can be removed through a small telescope. The procedure is done with anesthesia in a hospital or surgery center. The tumor is scraped off of the surface of the bladder wall. Bleeding can occur and is typically controlled with a special type of electrical current applied through the telescope. A catheter is often left in the bladder for several days afterwards.
Chemotherapy can be used but it’s not the type that make you physically ill or causes you to lose your hair. The medication is placed directly into the bladder through a catheter and can destroy tumor cells or prevent recurrences after surgery.
Surgical excision of the bladder is required when there is an aggressive tumor that grows into the muscle layer of the bladder. A piece of the intestine is used to replace the bladder and there are a wide variety of surgical procedures to allow urine to drain into this piece of your intestine.
Bladder cancer, like all cancers, is most easily and effectively treated when it is diagnosed at an early stage. If you have any of the signs or symptoms of bladder cancer, don’t delay. It’s a decision that could save your life!
If you would like a consultation about bladder cancer, call us at 888.735.4336 or email us via our Contact Us form to schedule an appointment at one of our 3 conveniently located offices.