Bladder Cancer

Bladder cancer is an abnormal growth of tissue in your bladder. Your bladder is the balloon-like sac in your pelvis. It collects and stores urine that comes from the kidneys through the ureters. The bladder wall is made of layers. If cancer spreads into these layers and through the wall of the bladder, it becomes more difficult to treat.

There are four stages of bladder cancer:

  • Stage I. Cancer at this stage occurs in the bladder's inner lining but has not invaded the muscular bladder wall.

  • Stage II. At this stage, cancer has invaded the bladder wall but is still confined to the bladder.

  • Stage III. By this stage, the cancer cells have spread through the bladder wall to surrounding tissue. They may also have spread to the prostate in men or the uterus or vagina in women.

  • ExitCare Image Stage IV. By this stage, cancer cells may have spread to the lymph nodes and other organs, such as your lungs, bones, or liver.

RISK FACTORS

Although the cause of bladder cancer is not known, the following risk factors can increase your chances of getting bladder cancer:

  • Smoking.  

  • Occupational exposures, such as rubber, leather, textile, dyes, chemicals, and paint.  

  • Being white.  

  • Age.  

  • Being male.  

  • Having chronic bladder inflammation.  

  • Having a bladder cancer history.  

  • Having a family history of bladder cancer (heredity).  

  • Having had chemotherapy or radiation therapy to the pelvis.  

  • Being exposed to arsenic.  

SYMPTOMS

  • Blood in the urine.  

  • Pain with urination.  

  • Frequent bladder or urine infections.

  • Increase in urgency and frequency of urination.  

DIAGNOSIS

Your health care provider may suspect bladder cancer based on your description of urinary symptoms or based on the finding of blood or infection in the urine (especially if this has recurred several times). Other tests or procedures that may be performed include:

  • A narrow tube being inserted into your bladder through your urethra (cystoscopy) in order to view the lining of your bladder for tumors.  

  • A biopsy to sample the tumor to see if cancer is present.  

If cancer is present, it will then be staged to determine its severity and extent. It is important to know how deeply into the bladder wall the cancer has grown and whether the cancer has spread to any other parts of your body. Staging may require blood tests or special scans such as a CT scan, MRI, bone scan, or chest X-ray.

TREATMENT

Once your cancer has been diagnosed and staged, you should discuss a treatment plan with your health care provider. Based on the stage of the cancer, one treatment or a combination of treatments may be recommended. The most common forms of treatment are:

  • Surgery. Procedures that may be done include transurethral resection and cystectomy.

  • Radiation therapy. This is infrequently used to treat bladder cancer.  

  • Chemotherapy.  During this treatment, drugs are used to kill cancer cells.

  • Immunotherapy. This is usually administered directly into the bladder.

HOME CARE INSTRUCTIONS

  • Only take over-the-counter or prescription medicines for pain, discomfort, or fever as directed by your health care provider.  

  • Maintain a healthy diet.  

  • Consider joining a support group. This may help you learn to cope with the stress of having bladder cancer.  

  • Seek advice to help you manage treatment side effects.  

  • Keep all follow-up appointments as directed by your health care provider.  

  • Inform your cancer specialist if you are admitted to the hospital.  

SEEK MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • There is blood in your urine.

  • You have symptoms of a urinary tract infection. These include:

  • Tiredness.

  • Shakiness.

  • Weakness.

  • Muscle aches.

  • Abdominal pain.

  • Frequent and intense urge to urinate (in young women).

  • Burning feeling in the bladder or urethra during urination (in young women).

SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL CARE IF:

You are unable to urinate.