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Bladder Cancer

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This highly treatable, but frequently recurring cancer occurs in the bladder, the organ in the pelvis responsible for regulating urine flow. Bladder cancer can occur in people of any age, but is most common in those over middle age. Bladder cancer is often successfully treated, but has a higher rate of recurrence than most other cancers. For this reason, it is crucial for those who have had bladder cancer to continue regular screenings with their doctors.

The type of cancer in your bladder may affect the type of treatment your doctor suggests. The most common form of bladder cancer is urothelial carcinoma, which occurs when those urothelial cells in the lining of the bladder become cancerous. Urothelial carcinoma develops in the cells responsible for the expansion of the bladder as it fills. Another less common type of cancer is called squamous cell carcinoma, named after the cells it infects. Squamous cell carcinoma can affect cells all over the body, including the bladder. It is caused after long-term infection or irritation creates thin, flat cells in the affected tissue. Adenocarcinoma is a rare bladder cancer in the United States. This cancer grows in gland in the bladder that produces mucus.


Symptoms of bladder cancer are similar to the signs of kidney cancer and include blood in the urine, frequent urination, regular urinary tract infection, abdominal pain and back pain. Because they may be signs of kidney or bladder cancer, it is important for those experiencing these symptoms to call their doctor immediately.

Although bladder cancer may affect anyone, those particularly at risk are white people, men, those over forty, smokers and those with a family history of cancer. There is a suggested correlation between exposure to certain harmful chemicals and the development of kidney and bladder cancer. Their system is responsible for the filtering of these chemicals out of the bloodstream and thus, after prolonged exposure, these chemicals may build up in organs, causing adverse effects. Long-term exposure to arsenic and chemicals used to make dyes, rubber, leather, textiles and paints have been specifically identified as possible causes for bladder cancer.

Diagnosis & Treatment

If discovered in its early stages, bladder cancer may be treated with surgery. Transurethral resection of bladder tumor (TURBT) is often used to remove tumors that have developed inside the bladder. This procedure uses a probe sent up through the urethra into the bladder to burn the cancerous cells of the bladder wall. For smaller invasive cancers, doctors may suggest partial cystectomy, removing the cancerous portion of the bladder.

Click the image below to view and download an informational PDF about TURBT.

If bladder cancer advances deep into the bladder wall and cannot be treated with other surgical options, a full removal, or radical cystectomy, may be suggested. This procedure involves complete removal of the bladder, surrounding lymph nodes and internal reproductive organs. After these organs are removed, a surgeon must create a way to allow for urine expulsion from the body. There are numerous options for this, depending on the extent of the patient’s cancer and their health.

Other, less common treatments for bladder cancer include: immunotherapy (the stimulation of the immune system to fight harder against the cancer cells), chemotherapy (application of medicine for treatment of cancer) and radiation (the use of high-energy radiation to kill the cancer cells).