What Is Bladder Cancer?
The bladder is the body’s storage organ for urine produced by the kidneys, which filter and remove from blood the waste products of metabolism. The bladder is hollow, located at the base of the pelvis, and composed of smooth muscle. These features allows it to most effectively collect urine on its way out of the body.
According to the American Cancer Society, bladder cancer accounts for roughly five percent of all newly diagnosed cancers in the United States. Cancer is disease characterized by unregulated cell division in which abnormal cells may invade and destroy normal body tissues. Each of the body’s tissues is a collection of cells working together to contribute to the healthy functioning of the body.
Transitional cell carcinoma, also known as “urothelial carcinoma,” is the most common type of bladder cancer. Here, “transitional” indicates its occurrence in urothelial cells. These cells line the bladder’s interior and stretch as the bladder expands to collect urine. Bladder cancer may also be squamous or adenocarcinomatous. “Squamous” means it begins in cells that are thin, flat, and also line the bladder whereas “adenocarcinomatous” indicates development from glandular cells, which release substances such as hormones.
What Causes Bladder Cancer?
Bladder cancer develops as a result of changes to the genetic material within bladder cells. These changes result in the pattern of cell growth and division characteristic of bladder cancer. Although increased likelihood of developing bladder cancer is associated with the following factors, in most cases, physicians and scientists are still trying to determine what causes bladder cancer to develop:
- Being a male
- Bladder birth defects
- Exposure to carcinogens
- Bladder stones
- Chronic bladder infections and irritation
- Lynch syndrome
- Cowen disease
- Prior chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy
- Personal history of bladder cancer
- Family history of bladder cancer
- Use of the drug Pioglitazone (Actos)
- Not consuming enough liquids
How Is Bladder Cancer Detected?
Our specialists take a comprehensive medical history and ask questions to gain insight regarding the symptoms our patients experience.
If bladder cancer is suspected, a doctor will likely order either a urine cytology, a cystoscopy, or an imaging study to help arrive at a diagnosis. A urine cytology is a test doctors use to see if there are any tumor cells in a urine sample. A cystoscopy allows doctors to see inside the body with the help of a flexible tube known as a cystoscope. Imaging studies might include a CT scan, PET scan, PET-CT scan, ultrasound, or MRI. A CT (computed tomography) scan uses X-rays to generate a three-dimensional picture of the body whereas a PET (positron emission tomography) scan uses a small amount of radioactive tracer to locate any cancer cells by how readily they take up the radiotracer. A PET-CT combines the features of CT scan with those of a PET scan. An MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) uses magnetic fields to generate a detailed representation of the body. Lastly, an ultrasound sends sound waves through the body to generate images of the body’s organs and tissues.
If upon review of your results your doctor notices a mass suspicious for bladder cancer, he or she will likely order a biopsy in order to make a diagnosis and plan treatment, if necessary.
Stages of Bladder Cancer
‘Staging’ occurs when a physician uses test and scan results to determine which parts of the body are involved by cancer, in this case bladder cancer. Staging is important because different stages of bladder cancer are better addressed with treatments which may differ in amount, combination, or type. According to the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC), the stages for bladder cancer are as follows:
The bladder cancer only involves the surface of the interior lining the bladder.
Here, the bladder cancer only involves the interior lining of the bladder.
The cancer has penetrated through the bladder’s interior lining.
The cancer has penetrated deeper into the bladder’s muscular wall.
The cancer now extends through the muscular wall and into fatty tissue that surrounds the bladder. The cancer might even involve the prostate in men or the uterus and vagina in women.
- The primary tumor has grown to include the pelvic wall or abdominal wall but does not include the lymph nodes or other parts of the body. OR
- The cancer has spread to at least one of the nearby lymph nodes but has not spread to other parts of the body. OR
- The tumor has spread to other, perhaps distant, parts of the body.
Signs and Symptoms of Bladder Cancer
The following may be indicative of bladder cancer but may also be indicative of other illnesses:
- Blood in the urine (hematuria)
- Frequent and/or painful urination
- Burning sensation when urinating
- Needing to urinate at night (nocturia)
- Needing to urinate without the ability to pass urine
- Lower abdominal and/or back pain
- Darkening of the urine
It is important you tell your doctor if you have any of these signs and symptoms, so he or she may determine their cause and plan treatment, if necessary.
How Is Bladder Cancer Treated?
Treatment of bladder cancer, depending on the stage and type, may include chemotherapy, immunotherapy, radiation therapy, and/or surgery. These treatments may be used individually or in combination based on your doctor’s recommendations. It’s important to discuss all of your treatment options with your doctor to help make the decision that best fits your needs. Some important factors to consider when deciding on a bladder cancer treatment plan include:
- Your age, health, and lifestyle
- The stage of your cancer
- Any other serious health conditions you have
- Your feelings about the need to treat the cancer right away
- Your doctor’s opinion about if you need to treat the cancer right away
- The likelihood that treatment will help fight or cure your cancer
- Possible side effects from each treatment method
You may feel the need to make a quick decision, but it’s very important to ask questions if there is anything about which you’re not entirely sure. It’s very important for you and your doctor to communicate and work together to weigh the benefits of each treatment option against the possible adverse effects in order to ultimately determine which treatment option is best for you.
Our Clinical Trials in Bladder Cancer
Clinical trials are carefully controlled research studies that are done to get a closer look at promising new treatments or procedures. Clinical trials are one way to get state-of-the art cancer treatment and, sometimes, may be the only way to get access to newer treatments. They are also the best way for doctors to learn how to better treat cancer. If you would like to learn more about clinical trials that might be right for you, contact New York Cancer and Blood Specialists today at (855) 528-7322 to learn more.
We are a localized, community treatment center that provides programs and services, such as support groups and wellness care, to help you get through treatment. We have the experts to assist you.
If you need assistance, have questions or would like to set up an appointment or consultation in regards to your diagnosis or symptoms, please contact us at (855) 528-7322 for more information and to speak with one of our trained specialists.