Cancer in the Bladder - Symptoms, Causes and Treatment
Bladder cancer is a type of cancer that occurs in your bladder, a
balloon-shaped organ in your pelvic area that stores urine. It is the
fourth most common type of cancer in men and the eighth most common type
in women. Tumors can develop on the surface of the bladder wall or in
more severe cases, within the wall and into the underlying muscles.
Cancer in the bladder typically affects older adults, though it can occur
at any age. Bladder tumors are 2 to 3 times more common in men.
Causes of Bladder Cancer
Smoking, gender, and diet can affect the risk of developing bladder
cancer. Bladder carcinomas are also associated with industrial exposure
to aromatic amines in dyes, paints, benzedine, nitrates, solvents,
leather dust, inks, combustion products, rubber, and textiles. The period
between exposure to the carcinogen and development of symptoms is about
There is currently limited evidence that diet plays a part in the
development of bladder cancer, but a diet high in fruit and vegetables
and low in fat may help reduce the risk. Urinary infections, kidney and
bladder stones, and other causes of chronic bladder irritation have been
linked with bladder cancer (especially squamous cell carcinoma of the
bladder), but they do not necessarily cause bladder cancer.
Signs of Bladder Cancer
In early cases around 25% of patients have no symptoms. Commonly the
first sign of bladder tumours is blood in the urine, pain after
urination, urinary frequency and dribbling. However, these signs and
symptoms are not specific to bladder cancer, and may also be caused by
non-cancerous conditions, including prostate infections and cystitis.
Types of Bladder Cancer
Cancers are divided into superficial and invasive disease. Superficial
bladder cancer is limited to the innermost linings of the bladder.
Invasive bladder cancer has at least penetrated the muscular layer of the
bladder wall. Less than 5% of bladder cancers in the United States are
squamous cell carcinomas, however, worldwide this is the most common
form, accounting for 75% of bladder carcinoma in underdeveloped nations.
Urothelial carcinoma (transitional cell carcinoma) is by far the most
common type of bladder cancer in the United States.
Diagnosis of Bladder Cancer
Cancer in the bladder is usually curable if it is diagnosed while the
cancer is still contained in the bladder, and up to 80% of tumors are
diagnosed at this early stage. A biopsy for bladder cancer is usually
done during cystoscopy. CT and Ultrasound scans, urinalysis and
arteriography may also be done.
Treatment for Bladder Cancer
Treatments include bladder cancer surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and
biologic therapy. The stage and grade of the cancer provides important
information and can help guide treatment. Superficial bladder tumors are
surgically removed with chemotherapy being added to the treatment regime
to help prevent recurrence. Radical cystectomy and urinary diversion (an
external bag) is usually undertaken for invasive bladder cancer.
Several new compounds have shown activity against transitional cell
bladder cancer and are now being tested in combination chemotherapy
trials. BCG immunotherapy is the most effective intravesical therapy and
involves a live attenuated strain of Mycobacterium bovis. Immunotherapy
in the form of BCG instillation is also used to treat and prevent the
recurrence of superficial tumors. Alternative bladder cancer treatments
such as herbal treatment may also be of some benefit.
Stopping smoking can reduce the risk of getting bladder cancer and if you
have been diagnosed with superficial bladder cancer, stopping smoking
will reduce the risk of developing more tumours in the future. Bladder
cancer has a recurrence rate of 50%-80% and therefore, doctors recommend
cystoscopy screening every three months for the first two years after
treatment. People who drink a lot of fluids each day have a lower rate of
The prognosis depends on the stage of the cancer, whether it is
superficial or invasive bladder cancer, and whether it has spread to
other places in the body. Superficial bladder cancer has a good
prognosis, with 5-year survival rates of 82-100%. If a tumor has grown
into the wall of the bladder but has not spread to other organs,
treatment usually involves surgical removal of the tumor, or combined
chemotherapy and radiation therapy, with a five-year survival rate of 60%
to 75%. Patients with more deeply invasive tumors,which are also usually
less well differentiated, and those with lymphovascular invasion
experience 5-year survival rates of 30% to 50% following radical
Dick Aronson has a background of over 35 years in various facets of the
Healthcare industry. He set up and ran clinical trials in more than 20
countries and he has also founded a number of small private health
related businesses. Dick now runs a number of informative health websites
Go to Health Innovations Online and Go to Cancer Information Online