Bladder cancer is the 6th most common form of cancer diagnosed in the United States. As we entered the 21st century, over 50,000 Americans were developing bladder cancer annually. Fortunately, it is also very treatable and a variety of bladder cancer treatment options - ranging from surgery to drug therapy - are available to patients.
Contributing Risk Factors
Bladder cancer can be hereditary.
Signs and Symptoms
Blood in the urine, pain while urinating, and a frequent need to urinate even if the bladder is empty are the main symptoms of bladder cancer. However, these symptoms can also indicate bladder infections
, stones or benign tumors
, so a medical diagnosis is necessary to rule out or confirm cancer of the bladder.
Diagnosis and Tests
Diagnosis of bladder cancer generally starts with urine tests. These tests look for cancer cells as well as evidence of infection and other non-cancerous explanations of the symptoms. Your family doctor may also perform a physical exam (a vaginal examination for women, and a rectal exam for men).
If the physical exam or the urine test indicates the possibility of bladder cancer, X-rays of the bladder may be taken, or the doctor may perform a cystoscopy. A thin tube called a cystoscope is inserted into the bladder, allowing the physician to view and examine the bladder. The cystoscope can also take tissue samples for biopsy
to determine whether cancer cells are present.
Treatment and Prevention
Treatment for bladder cancer varies from patient to patient and includes radiation therapy
, surgery, or a combination of these therapies. Of the three types of bladder cancer treatment, surgery is the most common. Depending on the extent of the cancer, the surgery may be as simple as scraping cancerous
cells off the bladder, removing a portion of the bladder, or in severe cases, removing the bladder entirely.
External radiation therapy targets the cancer with bursts of radiation that kill the cancerous cells. With internal radiation therapy a small radioactive device is inserted into the bladder. The patient usually stays in the hospital for a few days until the device is removed. Often, both external and internal radiation are used together. Chemotherapy
treats the cancer with drugs that are delivered directly to the bladder using a catheter, or they may be injected directly into the bloodstream.