The following describes the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of bladder cancer. For specific information regarding your health and treatment options, please contact your Hurley physician or medical professional.
Bladder cancer involves the growth of abnormal, cancerous cells in the bladder.
The bladder is a small, hollow organ located in the lower abdomen designed to store and eliminate urine. The bladder expands and relaxes as urine is collected and stored, and then contracts to move the fluid through the urethra while urinating.
According to the American Cancer Society, bladder cancer affects men four times as often as women. Caucasians are twice as likely to have bladder cancer as African-Americans, while the majority of people diagnosed with bladder cancer are over the age of 65.
What are the causes of bladder cancer?
The exact causes of bladder cancer, as with most cancers, are unknown. However, there are certain risk factors that increase the possibility of being diagnosed with bladder cancer, including age, gender and race, as noted above, as well as cigarette smoking, chronic bladder irritations (such as bladder stones) or infections, parasite infections (generally found in tropical areas of the world, not in the United States), personal or family history of bladder cancer, and working in occupations with heightened risk of exposure to certain toxins.
Since the symptoms of bladder cancer vary across individuals and may appear similar to symptoms of other illnesses and disorders, you should always speak to your Hurley physician about any symptoms you are experiencing.
Typical symptoms of bladder cancer include the following:
- Pain when urinating
- Blood in the urine
- Urge to urinate frequently, without passing normal amounts of urine
- Pain in the pelvic area or lower back
During a visit with a Hurley physician
During your appointment, your Hurley physician will ask you questions about your medical history and conduct a complete physical examination. Diagnostic procedures used to detect the presence of bladder cancer may include vaginal or rectal examination and cystoscopy (in which a thin, flexible tube and viewing device are inserted in the urethra to inspect the urinary tract and bladder for abnormalities). Laboratory tests may be ordered, including biopsies of tissue samples taken during cystoscopy, bladder tumor marker studies, and other tests for blood, bacteria, and cells. Imaging technology may also be used to identify structural or chemical problems, including intravenous pyelogram (IVP, the injection of dyes into the veins connected to the bladder, followed by x-rays), ultrasound, CT scans, MRI scans and PET scans.
Part of the diagnostic testing process involves grading and “staging” the bladder cancer. In this step, your oncologist will determine the type of cancerous cells or tumors present, the rate of tumor growth, and the degree to which the cancer has spread to other organs and systems of the body. Your oncologist will then recommend a course of treatment that takes this information into account, as well as your age, overall health, and personal and family circumstances, and your unique needs and objectives for treatment.
Treatment options for bladder cancer
Treatment options may include surgery to remove the cancerous cells, tumors and affected areas of the bladder. For smaller tumors and less aggressive cancers, minimally invasive techniques using cystoscopy can be used to remove or burn away affected tissues and repair the bladder or urethra. For more advanced cases, more aggressive surgery may be required, including complete removal of the bladder and related organs. In such circumstances, a urostomy may be performed to allow for drainage of urine into collection bags or reservoirs outside the body.
Chemotherapy, radiation therapy and biological therapies (that use the body’s own immune system to fight cancer) may also be used alone, in combination with each other, or in addition to surgical techniques. Research on bladder cancer is ongoing; you may wish to speak with your Hurley physician about clinical trials that are testing new, emerging treatment options.