Bladder Cancer – Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, And Treatment
What is bladder cancer?
Bladder cancer is a cancer that develops in the bladder. The bladder is an organ in the center of the lower abdomen that stores the urine until it is passed out of the body. Transitional cell carcinoma, also called urothelial carcinoma, is the most common type of bladder cancer. Squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma are the other types of bladder cancer.
What causes bladder cancer?
The exact cause of bladder cancer is not known to doctors. What is known is, one or more of the following factors may increase the risk of developing it:
- Exposure to chemicals at work
- Cyclophosphamide, a chemotherapy drug
- Radiation treatment for cervical cancer
- Chronic bladder infections
What are the symptoms of bladder cancer?
The following are the common symptoms of bladder cancer:
- Blood in the urine
- Painful urination
- Urinary frequency and urgency
- Abdominal pain
- Urinary incontinence
- Weight loss
- Bone pain or tenderness (only when cancer spreads to the bone)
How is bladder cancer diagnosed?
The doctor will perform a physical examination including a rectal and pelvic exam and review the symptoms.
The doctor may order some of the following tests:
- CT scan of the abdomen
- MRI scan of the abdomen
- Cystoscopy with biopsy
- Intravenous pyelogram – IVP
- CT scan of the pelvis
- Urine cytology
If the above tests confirm the presence of the bladder cancer, the doctor will do staging tests ( known as TNM staging system) to know the stage of cancer and to see if cancer has spread to other areas of the body. TNM stands for tumor, nodes, and metastasis.
The following are the different stages of the bladder cancer:
- Ta: In this stage, the cancer is in the lining of the bladder and has not spread.
- T1: In this stage, cancer goes through the bladder lining, but does not reach the bladder muscle.
- T2: In this stage, cancer spreads to the bladder muscle.
- T3: In this stage, cancer spreads past the bladder into the fatty tissue surrounding it.
- T4: In this stage, cancer has spread to nearby structures such as the prostate gland, uterus, vagina, rectum, abdominal wall, or pelvic wall.
How is bladder cancer treated?
Treatment depends on the grade and stage of cancer, the severity of the symptoms, and the patient’s health condition. The following are the common treatment options:
Stage 0 and I
- Surgically removing the tumor without removing the rest of the bladder
- Chemotherapy or immunotherapy placed directly into the bladder
Stage II and III
- Surgically removing the entire bladder and nearby lymph nodes
- Surgically removing a part of the bladder and followed by radiation and chemotherapy
- Chemotherapy to shrink the tumor before surgery
- A combination of chemotherapy and radiation (if surgery is not possible)
Stage IV bladder cancer is not curable. Chemotherapy is given to most people with stage IV tumors to help alleviate the symptoms. Usually, surgery is not done.
Often, bladder cancers are also treated with immunotherapy. This mode of treatment involves administering a medicine that triggers the immune system to attack and kill the cancer cells. Mostly, BCG (Bacille Calmette-Guerin vaccine) is given.
This feature is for informational purposes only and is not intended to substitute the expert guidance of a doctor. We advise seeing a doctor if you have any health concerns.