Bladder Cancer

The bladder is located in the lower abdomen. It is a hollow organ with flexible muscular walls. It stores urine until a person is ready to urinate. Bladder cancer is a disease in which cancer cells grow in the bladder. Cancer occurs when cells in the body, in this case bladder cells, divide without control or order. Sometimes, cells divide uncontrollably when new cells are not needed. A mass of tissue called a growth or tumor can form. The term cancer refers to malignant tumors. Malignant tumors can invade nearby tissue and spread to other parts of the body. Three main types of cancer affect the bladder. They are named for the type of cell that becomes cancerous:

  • Causes

    The cause of bladder cancer is unknown. However, several risk factors have been identified.

  • Definition

    The bladder is located in the lower abdomen. It is a hollow organ with flexible muscular walls. It stores urine until a person is ready to urinate. Bladder cancer is a disease in which cancer cells grow in the bladder.

    Cancer occurs when cells in the body, in this case bladder cells, divide without control or order. Sometimes, cells divide uncontrollably when new cells are not needed. A mass of tissue called a growth or tumor can form. The term cancer refers to malignant tumors. Malignant tumors can invade nearby tissue and spread to other parts of the body.

    Three main types of cancer affect the bladder. They are named for the type of cell that becomes cancerous:

    • Transitional cell (urothelial) carcinoma
    • Squamous cell carcinoma
    • Adenocarcinoma
    Bladder Cancer
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  • Diagnosis

    Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Your doctor will feel the abdomen and pelvis for abnormalities. The physical exam may include a rectal or vaginal exam.

    • Your doctor may need to examine your urine. This can be done with:
      • Urine cytology
      • Urine culture
    • Your doctor may to look at your bladder and the surrounding area. This can be done with:
      • Cystoscopy
      • Intravenous pyelogram (IVP)
      • CT scan
      • MRI
      • Ultrasound
      • Bone scan

    • Your doctor may also order a biopsy to remove a sample of bladder tissue to test for cancer cells.

    Staging tests are done after bladder cancer is found. These tests find out if the cancer has spread and, if so, to what parts of the body. Treatments for bladder cancer depend on the stage of the cancer. The stages of bladder cancer are:

    • Stage 0: cancer cells are found only on the surface of the inner lining of the bladder.
    • Stage 1: cancer cells are found deep in the inner lining of the bladder; no lymph nodes are involved.
    • Stage 2: cancer cells have spread to the muscle of the bladder; no lymph nodes are involved.

    • Stage 3: cancer cells have spread through the muscular wall of the bladder to the layer of tissue surrounding the bladder
      OR
      possibly to the reproductive organs including the prostate glands; no lymph nodes are involved.

    • Stage 4: cancer cells extending outside the bladder to the wall of the abdomen or to the wall of the pelvis without lymph node involvement
      OR
      have spread to one or more lymph nodes and other parts of the body.

  • Prevention

    The following steps can reduce your risk of getting bladder cancer:


    • Don't
      smoke
      or use tobacco products. If you do, quit.
    • Avoid or minimize occupational exposure to certain chemicals; follow good work safety practices.
    • Eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables.
    • Avoid excess intake of high fat or high cholesterol.

  • Risk Factors

    Factors that may increase your chance of developing bladder cancer include:

    • Smoking
    • Increased age: The majority of people with bladder cancer are between 65 and 85 years old.

    • Occupation due to exposure to certain substances:
      • Rubber, leather, and textile workers
      • Painters
      • Hairdressers
      • Machinists
      • Printers
      • Truck drivers
      • Petroleum industry workers
    • Race: White
    • Sex: male
    • Genetics
    • Chronic bladder inflammation or infection such as schistosomiasis, an infection caused by a parasitic worm
    • Personal or family history of bladder cancer
    • Chemotherapeutic drugs: cyclophosphamide and ifosfamide
    • The use of pioglitazone, an anti-diabetic agent
    • Exposure to arsenic
    • Radiation
      treatment of the pelvis
    • Bladder birth defects
    • Chemicals such as nitrosamines and benzidine
    • Urinary stones for many years
    • In-dwelling catheter for many years
    • Bladder diverticuli: an area of weakness in the bladder wall through which some of the lining of the bladder is forced out
    • Metastasis from another cancer

  • Symptoms

    Symptoms include:

    • Blood in the urine
    • Frequent urination, or feeling the need to urinate without being able
    • Painful urination
    • Lower back pain
    • Weight loss, bone pain, or abdominal pain in advanced cases

    These symptoms may be caused by other less serious health conditions, such as bladder stones or infection. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, see your physician.

  • Treatment

    Treatment options include: