Bladder Cancer

The American Cancer Society estimates that 76,960 new cases of bladder cancer would be found in the United States during 2016. The chance of a man having this cancer is about 1 in 26. For women, it is 1 in 88.

In 2016 about 16,390 people will die of this disease. Bladder cancer is more common among men than women and more common among whites than blacks. When found and treated early, as often happens, the chances for survival are very good.

Ninety percent of bladder cancers are urothelial cell carcinomas or cancer that begins in the lining of the bladder. This type of cancer is referred to as “superficial” bladder cancer, and it can recur after treatment is given to a patient. Should cancer spread from the urothelial cells into the inner lining of the bladder (invading the muscular cell), this is referred to as “invasive” bladder cancer.

What is the bladder?

The bladder is a hollow, muscular, and elastic organ which sits on the pelvic floor. The bladder collects urine which is excreted by the kidneys. Urine enters the bladder from the kidneys through tubes called the ureters and out through another tube called the urethra.

Who is at risk?

The following risk factors have been linked to bladder cancer:

  • Smoking: Smokers get bladder cancer twice as often as people who don’t smoke. Tobacco contains certain chemicals that get absorbed into the blood. Then they get filtered by the kidneys and collect in the urine. Then the chemicals in the urine damage the lining of he bladder and increase the risk of bladder cancer.
  • Work exposure: Workers with a higher risk of bladder cancer include painters, hairdressers, machinists, printers, and truck drivers. Some chemicals used in the making of dye have been linked to bladder cancer. People who work with chemicals called aromatic amines may have higher risk.
  • Race: Caucasians are twice as likely to develop bladder cancer as are African Americans and Hispanics. Asians have the lowest rate of bladder cancer.
  • Age: The risk of bladder cancer goes up with age.
  • Gender: Men get bladder cancer 4 times as often as women.
  • Chronic bladder inflammation: While urinary tract infections, bladder stones, and kidney stones do not cause bladder cancer, they have been linked to it.
  • Personal or Family History of Bladder Cancer: People who have had bladder cancer or have family members who have had bladder cancer also are higher risk.
  • Bladder birth defects: There are two very rare birth defects that could cause bladder cancer. One is a connection between the belly button and the bladder does not disappear after birth and the second one is called exstrophy.
  • Earlier treatment: Some drugs or radiation to treat other kinds of cancers can increase the risk of bladder cancer.
  • Arsenic: Arsenic in drinking water has been linked to a higher risk of bladder cancer.
  • Not drinking enough liquids: People who drink lots of liquids each day have a lower rate of bladder cancer.

What are symptoms?

Bladder cancer often doesn’t produce signs or symptoms in its early stages. The first warning sign is usually blood in your urine. The blood may show up on a urine test, or your urine may appear reddish or darker than normal.This does not necessarily mean you have bladder cancer. There are common conditions such as urinary tract infections, kidney disease, kidney or bladder stones, and prostate problems can also cause blood in the urine. These conditions can cause other conditions that are similar to those of bladder cancer. Here are some other symptoms:

  • Pelvic Pain
  • Pain during urination
  • Frequent urination or feeling you need to urinate without being able to do so
  • Slowing of your urinary tract stream.

How is bladder cancer detected and diagnosed?

Your physician may begin to determine the cause of your symptoms by performing a physical exam. If further testing is required your physician may choose one of the following exams:

  • Cystoscopy: The cytoscope is a thin tube with a lens and a light. The physician will place the tube in the bladder via the urethra. The physician can physically look inside the bladder for abnormalities using this procedure.
  • Urine Cytology: In this test, urine or cells “washed” from the bladder are sent to the lab to see if cancer cells or pre-cancer cells are present.
  • Urine culture: A urine sample is taken and screened for any infections.
  • Biopsy: A sample of any suspicious tissue is removed from the bladder and then examined under the microscope.
  • Bladder tumor marker studies: These test look for certain substances released by cancer cells into the urine.
  • Imaging tests: These x-ray or ultrasound tests allow the physicians to “see” your bladder and other organs.

What are my treatment options?

There are several treatment options for bladder cancer. It is very important for you to discuss thoroughly the options with your doctor regarding an effective treatment plan specifically designed to your needs.

Additional Resources

This report is intended for patient education and information only. It does not constitute advice, nor should it be taken to suggest or replace professional medical care from your physician. Your treatment options may vary, depending upon medical history and current condition. Only your physician and you can determine your best option.