- Bladder cancer refers to any of several types of malignant growths of the urinary bladder. It is a disease in which abnormal cells multiply without control in the bladder. The bladder is a hollow, muscular organ that stores urine; it is located in the pelvis. The most common type of bladder cancer begins in cells lining the inside of the bladder and is called transitional cell carcinoma (sometimes urothelial cell carcinoma).
Signs and symptoms
- Bladder cancer characteristically causes blood in the urine; this may be visible to the naked eye (frank hematuria) or detectable only by microscope (microscopic hematuria). Other possible symptoms include pain during urination, frequent urination (Polyuria) or feeling the need to urinate without results. These signs and symptoms are not specific to bladder cancer, and are also caused by non-cancerous conditions, including prostate infections and cystitis. Kidney cancer also can cause hematuria.
- Tobacco smoking is the main known cause of urinary bladder cancer: in most populations, smoking causes over half of bladder cancer cases in men and a sizeable proportion in women. There is a linear relationship between smoking and risk, and quitting smoking reduces the risk. In a 10-year study involving almost 48,000 men, researchers found that men who drank 1.5L of water a day had a significantly reduced incidence of bladder cancer when compared with men who drank less than 240mL (around 1 cup) per day. The authors proposed that bladder cancer might partly be caused by the bladder directly contacting carcinogens that are excreted in urine.
- The gold standard for diagnosing bladder cancer is biopsy obtained during cystoscopy. Sometimes it is an incidental finding during cystoscopy. Urine cytology can be obtained in voided urine or at the time of the cystoscopy (“bladder washing”). Cytology is very specific (a positive result is highly indicative of bladder cancer) but suffers from low sensitivity (a negative result does not exclude the diagnosis of cancer). There are newer urine bound markers for the diagnosis of bladder cancer. These markers are more sensitive but not as specific as urine cytology.
90% of bladder cancers are Transitional cell carcinoma. The other 10% are squamous cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma, sarcoma, small cell carcinoma and secondary deposits from cancers elsewhere in the body. CIS invariably consists of cytologically high grade tumour cells.
- Stage 0: Cancer cells are found only on the inner lining of the bladder.
- Stage I: Cancer cells have proliferated to the layer beyond the inner lining of the urinary bladder but not to the muscles of the urinary bladder.
- Stage II: Cancer cells have proliferated to the muscles in the bladder wall but not to the fatty tissue that surrounds the urinary bladder.
- Stage III: Cancer cells have proliferated to the fatty tissue surrounding the urinary bladder and to the prostate gland, vagina, or uterus, but not to the lymph nodes or other organs.
- Stage IV: Cancer cells have proliferated to the lymph nodes, pelvic or abdominal wall, and/or other organs.
- Recurrent: Cancer has recurred in the urinary bladder or in another nearby organ after having been treated.
- Transurethral resection (TUR) with fulguration: Surgery in which a cystoscope (a thin lighted tube) is inserted into the bladder through the urethra. A tool with a small wire loop on the end is then used to remove the cancer or to burn the tumor away with high-energy electricity. This is known as fulguration.
- Surgery to remove the bladder and any lymph nodes and nearby organs that contain cancer. This surgery may be done when the bladder cancer invades the muscle wall, or when superficial cancer involves a large part of the bladder. In men, the nearby organs that are removed are the prostate and the seminal vesicles. In women, the uterus, the ovaries, and part of the vagina are removed. Sometimes, when the cancer has spread outside the bladder and cannot be completely removed, surgery to remove only the bladder may be done to reduce urinary symptoms caused by the cancer. When the bladder must be removed, the surgeon creates another way for urine to leave the body.
Surgery to remove part of the bladder. This surgery may be done for patients who have a low-grade tumor that has invaded the wall of the bladder but is limited to one area of the bladder. Because only a part of the bladder is removed, patients are able to urinate normally after recovering from this surgery.
Urinary diversion: Surgery to make a new way for the body to store and pass urine.
- Radiation therapy is a cancer treatment that uses high-energy x-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing. There are two types of radiation therapy. External radiation therapy uses a machine outside the body to send radiation toward the cancer. Internal radiation therapy uses a radioactive substance sealed in needles, seeds, wires, or catheters that are placed directly into or near the cancer. The way the radiation therapy is given depends on the type and stage of the cancer being treated.
- Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. When chemotherapy is taken by mouth or injected into a vein or muscle, the drugs enter the bloodstream and can reach cancer cells throughout the body (systemic chemotherapy). When chemotherapy is placed directly into the spinal column, an organ, or a body cavity such as the abdomen, the drugs mainly affect cancer cells in those areas (regional chemotherapy). Bladder cancer may be treated with intravesical (into the bladder through a tube inserted into the urethra) chemotherapy. The way the chemotherapy is given depends on the type and stage of the cancer being treated.
- Biologic therapy is a treatment that uses the patient’s immune system to fight cancer. Substances made by the body or made in a laboratory are used to boost, direct, or restore the body’s natural defenses against cancer. This type of cancer treatment is also called biotherapy or immunotherapy.